Rasool Ehsany, Integrity Watch Afghanistan
Integrity Watch facilitated access to information and social audit trainings in Kapisa, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Balkh and Herat provinces in November and December 2019. The purpose of the trainings was to build demand for access to information and to raise the awareness of the participants about the Access to Information Law and its application. Participants were also trained on how to use the information obtained for conducting social audit and community-based monitoring, for investigative journalism and for examining the public expenditure. Access to information can also be used as a data collection tool in research. The participants in these trainings included more than two hundred journalists, government employees and civil society activists—half of them female.
The training sessions included a role play which illustrated the different stages of the access to information process, such as how to file a complaint with the Access to Information Commission and how these complaints are addressed by the Commission, how the information sought is provided by the information officer and how advocacy for implementation of the provisions of the access to information law by an applicant is being conducted by Integrity Watch. After the conclusion of the access to information training, Integrity Watch organized a practical session to conduct social audit of a local hospital’s administration units, surgery rooms, X Ray Labs, Pharmacies, Patients’ beds, etc., in accordance with the checklist and questionnaires which were prepared in advance based on the Ministry of the Health’s policy and procedures.
Initial findings of the social audit sessions found that there was lack of facilities for female staff and a lack of filing system. It was also found that medicines were not provided to the patients and as a result they had to purchase the medicine themselves. The participants also discovered there was no policy for the fair distribution of medicines to patients, there was a lack of beds for patients as in some cases two or three patients shared a single bed and there was a lack of an information officer for referrals. In addition, the newly trained social auditors found that patients were treated inappropriately and the hospital reception and cleanliness were poorly managed.
The Provincial Integrity Networks in Kapisa, Nangarhar, Kabul, Herat and Balkh are currently working on the social audit findings report. They will share their findings with the relevant authorities formally and will follow this by holding advocacy meetings to monitor the progress of fixing the highlighted issues in the hospitals.