Need for honesty in municipalities
Millions of Afghanis in revenue have been lost to municipalities in the western provinces due to corruption, weak bureaucracies and a breakdown of law.
In addition, some 82 development projects have not taken off because either the money was embezzled or the implementation was poor.
On the basis of information provided by local authorities in the western zone, 54 of the projects were in Herat province, 12 in Farah, 9 in Badghis and 7 in Ghor province. The projects were for the asphalting of roads or construction of irrigation canals or ditches.
Authorities in Herat municipality said of 1.2 billion Afs (17.4 million USD) revenue for the last fiscal year (2017) only 489 million (7 million USD) was collected. Sayed Wahid Qetali, mayor of Herat, province blamed it on widespread corruption and the failure to implement a reform plan.
He went on to add that the tax for sanitation would be collected electronically so transparency would be ensured.
Ghor municipality has also faced serious problems. Mohammad Aref Qazizada, mayor, says the anticipated revenues last year were 140 million Afs (2 million USD) but only 15 million Afs (218,000 USD) were collected due to administrative corruption. Similarly, authorities in Farah also confirm financial and administrative corruption in collecting revenue as well as in implementation of the municipality's projects in the province.
Farah mayor says some municipality staff were hired on the basis of political links and support of powerful individuals in different posts and they have embezzled about one million Afs (15,000 USD) in the course of project implementation. He did not identify the embezzlers by name.
According to the mayor of Farah, the target for revenue collection was set at 100 million Afs (1.5 million USD) but only 55 million Afs (80,000 USD) were collected in the last fiscal year. He blamed administrative corruption as the main factor for the shortfall. He pointed out that staff changes are being made in some offices to counter corruption.
The municipality administration in Badghis province has also not been clear of corruption. Mayor Abdul Kadeer Kamran says that it has caused a 50 percent loss of revenue. He says only 29 million Afs (420,000 USD) were collected in the last fiscal.
The mayor of Badghis believes that the financial corruption takes places very skillfully in the municipality. According to mayor of Badghis province, the perpetrators enjoy the support of high ranking government authorities. He went on to add that a special section would be established to prevent financial corruption.
Corruption in developmental projects
The authorities in the appeals section of the Attorney General Office of Herat province say that 10 dossiers of Herat municipality staff are under their investigation. Azizullah Hijran, the prosecutor of counter administrative corruption section, says that the dossiers belong to the staff that are accused of being involved in embezzlement in 54 developmental projects as well as involved in abusing their official position and breaking the law.
Hijran went on to add that many million Afghanis may be embezzled in the projects. He told Killid that 36 employees of Herat municipality who are accused of being involved in corruption are under judicial prosecution while 20 others have fled the law. According to Hijran, the intelligence agencies are obliged to track them through cooperation of Interpol Police and arrest them.
The prosecutor went on to add that investigation on the dossiers is time-consuming due to high grade of the corruption that has occurred. He stated that the accused individuals would be convicted to between 7 and 15 years imprisonment and a cash fine considering the grade of embezzlement, type of corruption after their criminal action was proved.
The mayor of Herat has offered 50 employees of Herat municipality as well as three members of delegation assigned by Local Organs Independent Administration from Kabul to investigate the case for asking 40,000 USD bribe to the Attorney General Office. Qetali, the mayor of Herat, also claims that some of the previous delegations of Local Organs assigned for reviewing the corruption in Herat municipality are also accused of being involved in corruption but Munira Yusufzada, the spokesperson for Local Organs Independent Administration, neither confirms nor rejects the claims of Herat's mayor as she says that there were claims against the delegations assigned by the Local Organs for asking bribes in the past too that were made without evidence and documents.
She confirmed the arrest of three members of delegation assigned by Local Organs for investigation the factors of corruption in Herat municipality. Jailani Farhad, the spokesperson for the Herat governor, sees the introduction of more than 40 employees of Herat municipality to the Attorney General Office as a result of efforts in monitoring local administration and says that administrative corruption is identified still as a problem and there is need for people's cooperation to put an end to it.
Corruption is seen as a major problem in the municipality of Ghor province. Local authorities say that problems have existed in processing of the projects that have created ground for corruption. Mohammad Naser Khazea, governor of Ghor, says that based on internal monitoring, embezzlement has occurred in seven projects of the municipality in 2017. Khazea did not specify the amount of money lost as a result of embezzlement. He added that two employees of Ghor municipality as well as the former mayor have been introduced to Attorney General Office for being involved in administrative corruption.
Local authorities in Farah province also accept the existence of financial corruption in the municipality. According to them, the political support for those involved in corruption not only prevents the investigation into charges against them; rather it has widened the net of corruption. Meanwhile, Naser Mehri, the spokesperson for Farah province, insists that the local administration continuously monitors the activities of Farah municipality. He clearly told that the technical defects and problems of the projects have been sorted out in coordination with municipality administration.
Khaled Safi, legal advisor to the Badghis governor, mentions sabotage, bureaucracy and lack of transparency in some of the projects as instances that have caused administrative corruption in municipality administration in the province. Safi insists that nine projects of Badghis municipality have been implemented as per the norms set in contracts and an amount of 7 million Afs (102,000 USD) embezzlement has occurred. He accuses the low ranking employees of Badghis municipality for being involved in corruption and says that they would be introduced to justice and judicial offices in coordination with the administration of Badghis municipality.
As well as the embezzlement of money of developmental projects, the existence of many hundreds of ghost posts is a serious problem faced by municipalities in the western region. The authorities in Herat and Ghor municipalities say that more than 600 such posts have been created in the administrative and sanitation sections of municipalities. Sayed Wahid Qetali, mayor of Heart, says 150 employees had been employed but salary for 220 was being paid. He added that there were 319 employees in sanitation section of the Herat municipality but the salary was charged for 950 posts.
According to Qetali, as well as ghost employees on the payroll, there was widespread corruption in the practice of recruitment. Most recruitments have taken place unprofessionally and on the basis of political contacts and bribes. He said a review and investigation would take place soon in this regard too.
Ghor Mayor Mohammad Aref Qazizada said that as well as existence of administrative corruption, 30 ghost posts had existed in municipality of Ghor that a month ago were weeded out. He believes electronic collections are a good way to counter administrative corruption.
Members of provincial councils are obliged to monitor the implementation of the projects but some members in the western zone say that despite having the authority, they have not been kept aware about any contract and project of municipality.
Toryalai Taheri, a deputy in Herat provincial council, says that most of the projects of the Herat municipality have been implemented without conforming to construction standards and they are not acceptable for the provincial council. Taheri told that corruption in Herat municipality and compromises of some of the individuals with central government are the factors that have prevented the sound implementation of the projects.
Some Herat residents also criticise the existence of widespread corruption in Herat municipality administration. They say that the employees take bribes for sanitation service and getting license, etc., and refuse to work if it is not given. In turn residents expect the services of municipality should not be delayed once they pay the money.
Complaints about the workings of municipalities, particularly Herat, are not new. Three mayors of Herat have been dismissed from their jobs for being involved in embezzlement and abuse of power and are presently under prosecution.