The current government of Afghanistan has been passing through various challenges, ranging from counter-terrorism to tackling the activities of local warlords, countering drug trafficking and ensuring rule of law enforcement. Given the 2014 general election campaign, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani made numerous promises, among them were putting an end to the illegal land confiscators, stopping extrajudicial killings by local militia, curbing organized criminal networks, and most importantly institutional reforms and law enforcement.
The Brussels conference on Afghanistan held on 4th October 2016 which was aimed to ensure state building and reform in the government sectors. As a result, the EU provided € 100 million in 2017. As part of State Building Contract (SBC) signed during the Brussels conference, following a thorough assessment by the European Union the Afghan government was approved € 98 million aimed “in carrying out reforms to finalize and operationalize its development policies (ANPDF and NPPs), maintain macroeconomic stability and mobilize domestic revenue, advance sound public financial management and strengthen state budget transparency” in report released by the Delegation of the European Union to Afghanistan on 25th July 2018, titled “Continued Support to Reforms in Afghanistan, as Government Meets Agreed Benchmarks of Progress”.
Concerning anti-corruption, the 4th EU Anti-Corruption conference held at the Presidential Palace on 24 April 2018 under the theme of “corruption in recess, and peace in progress” the EU advocated a collective mobilization in response to combating the plight of corruption that add to enhance the problems the country is already suffering from. In addition to security, political, and economic dimensions, President Ghani emphasized on combating on the fourth dimension of challenge, on pervasive corruption. Given institutional reform on local governance level, in particular, municipal reform, eight reformist mayors have introduced among them Kandahar mayor due to his significant commitment and reforms received special Presidential award recognition.
Taken into consideration President Ghani’s campaign to transform the leadership of the country to the young educated generation, the current half of the cabinet ministers are under the age of 40. Recruitment at the Ministry of the interior had been soaked with rampant corruption, now this process is in a process of merit-based. In the education sector, roughly 6000 buildings were built across the country through the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and hence, investment on Salma and other dams.
The most recent one is a good example of establishing an office within the Administrative Office of the President, Asset Declaration and Verification directorate. This directorate is aimed to register and declare government high officials’ and based on law, eligible employees’ properties. According to the Asset Declaration and Verification Law (ADVL), in the wake of every financial year all government high officials and those employees who according to the law are required to register their property. According to ADVL there are three categories of government officials who are required to register their assets: first, government high officials, they are ministers, members of parliament attorney generals and, second, government officials, which are deputy ministers, member of provincial council, and mayors of all 34 provinces, and third, government employee, those staff who deals with financial and procurement sectors.
According to ADVL anyone from the aforementioned categories are required to register their assets at the taking their positions and so while leaving office. Their assets are specified which in short to mention is portable and importable property, monthly income and expenses, bank account information, previous monthly income and some other necessary information that help to find the real income to evaluate the recent wealth to his or her previous jobs and salaries. This can track one’s involvement in any illicit source of income.
According to ADVL anyone who refuses to register their asset will have to face with salary suspension and cut off other government-provided privileges. President Ghani ordered to comply ADVL to register their properties and if anyone refuses will have to face with salary suspension and other government-provided privileges. At the first stage, all ministers complied the ADVL and registered their property. However, with the exception of three parliamentarians, others refuse to obey the ADVL. As a result, a list of parliamentarians containing 68 members of Masharano Jarga (upper house), and 229 members of Wolasi Jarga (National Assembly), members of all provincial council, and 4 mayors were determined to send to Ministry of Finance to suspend their salaries.
This is a pragmatic step to identify money laundering, illicit source of income and as a whole to curb corruption in government institutions. At the first stage, this initiative would be resisted by certain government officials. With certain exception of some members, this initiative is already unwelcomed by the parliament and provincial council members who refused to register their property fearing this would lead to a court prosecution that would face them with accountability bureau. Rampant corruption is rooted in certain institutions. In long run, an effective and authorized institution is needed to hold them accountable in identifying the illicit source of income and their involvement corruption. Asset Declaration and Verification directorate at this stage has registered roughly 17000 out of 21000 eligible government staff, their verification is simultaneously underway.
Need to mention, the effectiveness of the Asset Declaration and Verification directorate lays in other oversight autonomous anti-corruption bodies; Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), Independent Joint Afghan-International Monitoring and Evaluation Committee issued as per Presidential decree 115 on September 18, 2016, and National High Council for Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption established on 17 August 2017 following Presidential decree 94. And that monitor, evaluate and ensure implementation of the rule of laws. Comparing the Pres Ghani’s reign institutional reform with that of the previous terms, one of the main distinctions is a strong political well coupled with the establishment of strong oversight bodies aimed to enact and implement the laws. President Ghani’s micro-level institutional reform demonstrates his genuine commitment that had made in the election campaign as part of his promises made to the people.
*Rahimullah Kakar is an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Academy alumni. Currently pursuing European Studies, majoring in EU Governance and Integration. Based at the European University of Flensburg in Germany