Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 10th, 2018

Institutionalizing Anti-corruption Efforts

Afghanistan is once again ranked among top three most corrupt countries in the world. According to the International Transparency annual report on corruption, only Somalia and North Korea precede Afghanistan as the most corrupt nations of the world. Based on the report, five countries ranking lowest in the index are considered as the most insecure countries in the world. The report says that in Afghanistan, millions of dollars that must have been spent for reconstruction of the country, has been embezzled or wasted, and this has severely affected the efforts to maintain peace and order in the country. Based on the report, corruption has increased in Afghanistan since the takeover of the national unity government in the country. The International Transparency report seriously questions the efforts of the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) to fight corruption and embezzlement.
Fighting corruption was one of the key promises of the NUG leaders during their presidential election campaigns in 2013. When taking power, NUG committed itself to seriously fight corruption and embezzlement in the country. However, despite some drastic measures taken by the government in last two years, the campaign has been struggling to make any tangible progress in eliminating corruption and promoting transparent and sound governance in Afghanistan.
The report suggests that the endeavors led by NUG have not been able to reverse the trend of increasing corruption in Afghanistan rather the level of corruption has further increased. This is while the NUG is credited for taking some critical steps in dealing with some high-profile and notorious cases of corruption in Afghanistan. Shortly after taking over power, President Ashraf Ghani quickly moved to resolve the Kabul Bank financial scandal. In order to curb rampant embezzlement in government ministries, he also consolidated major government contracts and procurements with oversight of a high procurement committee under his direct watch. His unexpected moves in suspending and charging some high-ranking officials of government procurement offices sent a shockwave within the ministries. The failure of the anti-corruption campaign of the National Unity Government is coming as surprising for those who expected the anti-corruption policies of the government would reduce level of corruption in Afghanistan.
There are some key reasons for the failure of the policies of the government in fighting corruption and embezzlement in the government offices. The Afghan policy makers need to take into account these factors. The most notable reason for the failure of the anti-corruption efforts is lack of institutionalized fight against corruption. No individual would ever be able to curb the pervasive corruption in the public sector and government offices in Afghanistan by taking isolated and arbitrary measures. The government needs to pursue a fully-fledged and institutionalized campaign against corruption in all levels. Only systemic and sustainable efforts would be able to reduce corruption and embezzlement in the country.
The government needs to heed to the call of the report and start establishing comprehensive mechanisms for dealing with corruption in a sustainable and viable manner. The government could establish a devoted and corruption-free entity for pursuing and exposing corrupt officials and consider rewards for those exposing corrupt officials. Any system for anti-corruption campaign should be able to institutionalize anti-corruption efforts in the government offices. Only such an approach would be able to purge the government bureaucracy from corrupt officials. In order to eliminate corruption, the Afghan government needs to redouble efforts to enhance capacities of the courts dealing with corruption cases. The Afghan judiciary must be enabled to undertake a more active role in pursuing and punishing corrupt government officials.  There should be zero tolerance from both the relevant government agencies and the judiciary to corruption. Current there is high levels of leniency and negligence from the relevant authorities towards instances of bribes in the public and government offices. This is because most of the officials of the anti-corruption offices are themselves corrupt or are lenient to cases of corruption due to the pervasiveness of bribes and embezzlements in Afghanistan. The government needs to establish and task a committed to fight corruption. There are rich experiments of anti-corruption efforts within the international community. The Afghan government needs to adopt suitable but robust and sustainable approach for fighting corruption in Afghanistan.  The government’s focus on other major national issues such as the anti-insurgency campaign and the peace efforts should not derail the efforts for cutting corruption in Afghanistan. The pervasive corruption undermines the whole efforts for promoting good governance in Afghanistan. The international community has spent millions of dollars to eliminate corruption and promote good governance in Afghanistan. However, the efforts have failed to make tangible differences in curbing the ever-increasing corruption in the country. The national unity government needs to take action to salvage the lagging process of promoting good governance in the country. The report of the Transparency International should come as a waking call for the government of Afghanistan to correct its course over fighting corruption or its leadership of the campaign will be another failed endeavor.