Yawning gulf between plan and execution
Poor quality execution of projects at the provincial level are a result of a top-down system of planning in which central offices do not share details with the implementing officials. Local authorities in the western zone say between 85 to 90 percent of projects that are conceived by the centre are executed by implementing agencies that have not seen the project plan. The projects include construction of dams, canals and the asphalting of roads. A copy of the plan is only sent to the provincial counterpart of the central office.
The monitoring of project works is one of the main duties of members of provincial councils. But provincial councilors in Herat, Badghis, Ghor and Farah – the western zone – say since they do not have enough information about the text of the contracts, they cannot closely monitor all the project stages.
Provincial councilors in Herat, Badghis, Ghor and Farah blame lack of coordination between the centre and the implementing agencies in the provinces for the poor implementation of projects.
Moreover, widespread corruption is another factor that affects project quality. For instance, millions of dollars have been siphoned off from projects meant to build roads to connect all provincial centres with districts. A close look at the situation on the ground.
Toryalai Taheri, deputy of the Herat provincial council, complains about the lack of transparency in the execution of projects. As a result the quality of project implementation is poor, he says. He cites the example of the project to modernise Herat airport. An amount of 420 million Afs (6.1 million USD) was allocated but only half the money was spent and the rest was embezzled, he says. In addition, other projects in the province like the asphalting of roads between Herat and Pashtoon Zarghoon; Herat to Ghorian; the dam project of Pashdan and construction of a canal in Guzara district of Herat province that he says are being implemented so very slowly that it is obviously out of government indifference.
The authorities in the Herat local administration confirm Taheri's view. Jailani Farhad, spokesperson for the governor told Killid that it was hard for the authorities to monitor projects when they have "no information about the details". The problem of lack of information has been shared frequently with the centre but no attention is ever paid, he adds.
He explains that the local administration in the province has set up committees to monitor the quality and phases of implementation of the projects. Under the law of national procurement, the concerned ministry should send a copy of the project to their provincial counterpart and provincial offices. However, this has not been fulfilled in even one of the ongoing projects.
Mohammad Yunus Rahnaward, head of economy of Herat told Killid that more than 85 percent of development projects that have been processed have been implemented in the absence of contracts and only a fraction of funds have been transferred to Herat. Rahnaward was emphatic that only 1 billion Afs out of 7 billion Afs (14 million out of 101 million USD allocated budget for development projects in Herat in year 1396/20, March 2017 to March 2018) has been transferred to Herat so far.
On the other hand, the governor's spokesperson Farhad claims projects that have been processed in Herat are also ridden with corruption. Corruption in both the awarding of the contract and project implementation has lowered project quality. The appointment of a mayor for Herat has been put off, and four employees were arrested in cases of corruption.
Gul Ahmad Ramesh, a deputy in the appeal office of Attorney General for Herat says complaints have been received about 45 development projects of the municipality. The complaints are under investigation.
Some members of the Farah provincial council also complain about poor quality implementation of development projects. The reasons cited are the same as in Herat: the absence of project details with concerned offices and monitoring institutions.
Jamila Amini, head of the Farah provincial council, blames "lack of attention" by central authorities in planning infrastructural projects. Sometimes the age of the project is less than the time for implementation, she says. As an example she cites the canal project in Jowand district for which 2 million USD was allocated. But the canal did not last more than one year due to poor implementation. She adds that very few development projects have been implemented over the last two years, and the contractors implementing the projects have changed hands many times. The company that was awarded the project then sublets it to another who in turn sublets to a third and so on and so forth – a cycle that drains the project of money and means there is no accountability
Amini says the central authorities have been informed about these concerns but there has been no response.
Zaher Shah Khadem, head of economy office in Farah province, says development projects have been poorly implemented because of the indifference of some ministries. He acknowledges that lack of security is only a cause for delay in some districts. But that does not come in the way of contractors making neat profits out of project implementation, he concedes.
Abdul Baset Sarem, head of the provincial council in Badghis, claims projects are awarded to powerful locals who pocket much of the money. The project plans are not shared with local authorities. Two of the examples of projects that have run into millions of dollars but were poorly implemented are construction of the Badghis Ring Road as well as asphalting roads in Badghis city and district.
Sarem says 5 million USD allocated for the projects was embezzled.
The head of Badghis provincial council insisted that they have complained frequently about financial corruption and poor quality of the project to the central government but their complaints have not gotten a response.
Mohammad Anwar Eshaqzai, governor of Badghis, also confirms that the development projects have been implemented at the lowest level of quality. Governor Eshaqzai says corruption in the implementation of projects emerges when local authorities do not have the text of the contracts. He said that some of the defects in projects have been sorted out after the monitoring and evaluation committee submitted a report.
It said that 90 percent of development projects have been implemented in a manner that the text of contracts has not been given to the local authorities of Ghor province. They say that the implementation of projects in the absence of contracts have caused the delay in project implementation as well as feeding corruption. Mohammad Naser Khazea, governor of Ghor told Killid that though the problems have been shared with the contracting companies as well as with the authorities in the central government, it has not been taken seriously. According to Mohammad Naser, the projects where the procurement processes have been completed in the province have been implemented on time and better quality. He asked the authorities in the central government to provide them copies of contracts for the local authorities. Fazel Haq Ehsan who is heading the provincial council in Ghor province told Killid that the projects of dam of Kozalich, two water canals, Ghor airport and the central hospital are the projects under a cloud. According to Ehsan, investigations show that more than four million dollars from the allocated budget for the mentioned projects have been embezzled.
The poor quality of developmental projects has fanned the concern of Members of Parliament (MPs) like Nesar Ahmad Ghoriani from Herat. He says that administrative and financial corruption is the main reasons for poor quality implementation of the developmental projects. Ghoriani said acting on their complaint the national procurement commission decided to send a copy of contract text to the authorities of the local administration too.
Officials in denial
Bakhtiar Najman, an expert on administrative corruption in the national procurement commission, says authorities in local offices do not have the slightest information about the implementation of developmental projects. According to Najman, local authorities can get information about project contracts from the presidency of the concerned ministry in the province. Najman did not explain how the information is given to these provincial presidencies but just said it was shared with the local offices in national interest.
Most of the complaints refer to the ministries of water and energy and public works. However, the authorities in the two ministries deny all criticism. Abdul Rahman Salahi, deputy head of Transport Infrastructure Maintenance, believes that the members of provincial councils do not have the ability to technically monitor development projects. In an interview with Killid he said the monitoring of development projects was the task of the monitoring group in every ministry. Abdul Basir Azimi, the administrative and financial deputy in the Ministry of Water and Energy, dismissed concerns about poor quality of projects as well as siphoning off of funds as baseless. The two ministries – water and public works – have strong monitoring groups that even monitor non-optional projects, he insists.
According to Azimi, the hydroelectric dam project called Pashdan is the only project in the west that has technical problems. As a result work has been stopped and the project has been put up for bidding.
Based on the statements of the authorities in the ministries, a copy of every development project is given to the local office through the Ministry of Economy. Killid tried to speak to officials in the ministry but, despite many attempts, no one was willing to engage in conversation.