December 8, 2016 (Kabul, Afghanistan) – Integrity Watch Afghanistan launched its biennial National Corruption Survey today. The report estimated $3b were paid in bribes in the last one year – an almost 50% increase compared to 2014. The amount of bribes estimated is much higher than the Afghan government revenue estimates for 2016. This survey indicates that following insecurity and unemployment, corruption is the third biggest problem that Afghans face. The survey also shows that corruption is having a negative effect on Afghanistan’s security.
“The devastating level of corruption undermines state legitimacy and erodes public trust. Institutional capture coupled with petty bribes paid by citizens on daily basis due to systemic corruption has become so serious that it threatens national security.” Said Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch.
The overwhelming majority (nearly 80%) of Afghans see corruption as a serious, and growing, problem. Most say that corruption is worse than it was two years ago, when IWA conducted its last survey.
Afghans are also convinced that corruption is having a negative effect on security, with more than half expressing the belief that corruption is a major factor in fueling the insurgency. The early euphoria that accompanied the inauguration of the National Unity Government in October 2014, has largely dissipated, leaving a populace that is disappointed, angry, and fearful about the future.
When given the opportunity to name more than one major problem in Afghanistan, corruption looms large. But, corruption’s “third place” status is misleading: both security and the economy are being negatively affected by corruption, and neither can be effectively tackled until corrupt officials are replaced, and trust in the government is restored. That trust has been seriously undermined during recent years.
Respondents who dealt with the courts reported that they were asked for bribes an astounding 55% of the time. Results were not much better when they dealt with prosecutors, or municipal government.
But these institutions were not alone. The Electoral Commission, Law Enforcement, the Office of the Chief Executive, Customs, Parliament, Municipalities, the Office of the President, and the Afghan Government as a whole were all implicated, with more than 60% of respondents saying they were corrupt to some extent.
This gives citizens very limited options about where to go to seek redress when they are confronted with corruption. Fewer than half of those who experience corruption ever report it, many saying that it would be useless, or could even provoke revenge.
The international community comes in for its share of criticism as well. More than a decade of tacitly facilitating corruption in the name of stability, of supporting strongmen and drug lords under the dubious assumption that they will help maintain order, has yielded bitter fruit. Fully 49% of the population believes that the international community has no interest in fighting corruption, while 46% think that the international community does not support honest officials.
Perhaps most discouraging is the fact that only a small number of respondents (16%) think that corruption can be substantially reduced. It has become such a factor of everyday life that it is just one more obstacle to be negotiated.
Just over half (52%) of respondents think that the current government has a sincere desire to fight corruption, which means that much of the country does not buy promises of reform expressed by the National Unity Government.
This is the most obvious conclusion to be drawn from the more than 7,800 responses received from all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan urges the government to undertake necessary reforms as quickly as possible. The sooner that the following recommendations are implemented, the sooner Afghanistan can begin to make progress in tackling its problems.