Integrity Watch helps Macroryan Residents Against Winter Harsh Cold Spell

The Makroryan Central Heating System which keeps thousands of residential apartments warm in winter in Kabul, restarted functioning as a result of the advocacy efforts of Integrity Watch. The heating system was supposed to be active from December 6, 2019 for three months. However, a month’s delay was caused due to procurement issues and negligence by officials. At the beginning of winter when the heating system was not activated, Macrorayan people met with Executive Director of Integrity Watch, Sayed Ikram Afzali, and registered their complaint. Even after a meeting with the Mayor of Kabul on December 12, 2019, a decision to purchase fuel by the Macroryan People Council, was not executed in time because the price of fuel, that was initially agreed, had increased. On December 31st, 2019 Integrity Watch took these citizens’ concerns to the National Procurement Commission (NPC) which is chaired by the President of Afghanistan. President Ghani ordered the provision of a subsidy to the heating system so that the Macroryan People’s Council can purchase cooking gas at the same price as fuel from the Afghanistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority. Following this decision, the heating system was activated on January 5th, 2020. However, the Operations and Maintenance Directorate (OMD) -a state owned enterprise – which runs the heating system faces several issues including allegations of corruption and misuse in the past. On the 23rd January 2020, to discover root causes of the issue, Integrity Watch began a social audit of the OMD. A social audit is a social accountability tool where citizens evaluate and assess the performance of a government agency against the applicable laws and financial resources.

Integrity Watch first talked to the People’s Council and held a meeting with OMD. The department would not allow the local council to conduct a social audit, claiming that it would create problems. In order to convince the OMD, Integrity Watch referenced the Access to Information Law based whereby people can access information and can conduct a social audit. These efforts, finally, convinced the Directorate to allow the local council to carry out a social audit. Integrity Watch provided the technical information and trainings necessary for both the local council members and the in-charge directorate to conduct a smooth and successful social audit. The social audit will look into the reasons behind the delays as well as the required changes in the OMD following amendment in its legal status from a State-Owned Enterprise to a government company. The social audit will take around two months to complete. Mr. Abdul Wakil, a member of the local council, expressed his appreciation for Integrity Watch’s work in helping them to restore the heating system, He said, “I am thankful to Integrity Watch for helping us with restoration of the heating system and drawing the official’s attention to the importance of a social audit.”