Inflated bills and fraudulent practices
An investigation reveals massive corruption in contracts awarded by the education department in Kabul province.
The stain of corruption is evident in a close inspection of documents in the possession of Killid. On Aug 6, 2013, the education department signed an agreement with 1TV, a channel, leasing out a hall in the former's premises for 5,000 USD. Government officials claim the money is not for renting the hall but for the recording and airing of an education programme, the Star of Education.
A second case of financial fraud involves the department's New Year celebrations in 2014. Bills were inflated to siphon off millions of Afghanis. Following an internal audit, a dossier was sent on Nov 18, 2016, by Asadullah Hanif Balkhi, the then minister of education, to the Attorney General Office (AGO).
Dr Sayeed Mansoor, the former head of Kabul education department and 12 other employees were accused of fraud in the case. The AGO however recommended disciplinary action.
Auditors of the Ministry of Education who called for a re-investigation by either the AGO or Supreme Audit Office challenged this in a letter (number 1278) signed by Balkhi.
When there was no response to the letter for four months, the internal audit again sent a reminder (letter number 322). Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwarai, then acting minister, ordered that the guilty officials should be punished as ordered by the AGO.
Killid sought interviews with Dr. Farooq Wardak, a former minister of education, and Dr. Sayeed Mansoor, ex-head of the provincial education department, but neither was willing to talk.
In a third case of corruption, an invoice for 50 computers and 50 printers purchased by the Ministry of Education in 2014 has been found to be fake. Documents with Killid show that not only is the invoice from a non-existent company, but the prices are way higher than the rate at the time.
Rent of hall
Mohammad Aziz Azizi, head of public services in Kabul education department, insists the agreement with 1TV was for the Star of Education programme. The contract document has been signed by Sayeed Mansoor, former head of Kabul education, and the deputy head of 1TV. As per the agreement, the TV channel would spend 5,000 USD on the rent of the hall and other civil works ordered by the education department.
However, according to Azizi, "we did not have any contract with 1TV but the 1TV helped us in rehabilitation of some roads located in front of the hall; the 1TV also constructed toilets and rooms for ablutions and also helped us in the construction of the mosque. It has not done more."
The contract, initially for a year, was extended to more years.
There is also another document that shows the company that built the roads in Kabul education department yard received direct payment from 1TV. The document that has been written by the authorities of Elham Farzad company has been signed by Sayeed Mansoor, former head of Kabul education. It says, "To 1TV administration – the company of Elham Farzad that has accomplished activities of construction of the roads, kindergarten and shadow place in the yard of Kabul education. We want help in arranging the payment that is one million Afs (14,300 USD)."
Yet, Azizi, the head of public services in Kabul education department says that 1TV has not helped in constructing the kindergarten and "shadow place".
Concerned authorities in 1TV were not ready to be interviewed but they accept that there was a contract but they were not allowed to monitor the repair works in the Kabul education department and provided payments on the basis of sanctions from the procurement head of Kabul education department as well as head of education department.
1TV authorities say they have all the documents that show the money was rightfully spent on repair work in Kabul education department.
As per the rules in cases where the government is taking a rent, the money should be first credited into the former's account and debited only from this account.
But in this instance 1TV officials say since this was not specified in the contract, they made payments directly to construction companies for civil works done on behalf of the education department.
New year celebrations
Documents with Killid show 6 million Afs (85,800 USD) was misappropriated in New Year day celebrations in 2014 by grossly marking up prices in every invoice.
One document shows purchases were made from Afghan Capital and Power Point Logistic companies but investigation during an internal audit by the Ministry of Education shows the invoices were forged, the purchases were made from a third company.
The case dossier was sent to former education minister Hanif Balkhi who forwarded it to the Attorney General Office (AGO) on Nov 18, 2016. Though the internal audit committee had pointed out that the ministry had enough time to buy from the lowest bidder, the AGO recommended only disciplinary punishment. The AG said the education department had to make purchases at short notice, and that is the reason for the high prices. Jamshed Rasouli, AGO spokesperson, says, "The decisions that the AGO takes are in view of the law."
However, Khuja Salimudin Sidiqi, head of internal audit planning in Ministry of Education, says since it was the first time New Year was celebrated, the ministry had taken a decision months before.
According to statements by education authorities issued during the investigation by the internal audit, as the celebrations were going to be joined by representatives of many countries, purchases were made on the basis of suggestions from the palace, council of ministers and Ministry of Education.
Sidiqi maintains there was massive over charging in the invoices. "The required items were purchased from a single source and the prices were at times higher than the original price in market." For instance, according to Sidiqi, investigators found that one pair of gloves were bought for 400 Afs (6 USD) when the price in the market is 30 Afs (less than one USD); a Kandahari embroidered shirt, which is commonly sold in markets, was purchases for 130,000 Afs (190 USD).
Balkhi, the former minister of education, says dossiers of financial fraud in the government should not be closed with merely "disciplinary punishment". "A big embezzlement has taken place here," he says while urging AGO authorities to review the dossier.
AGO spokesperson Rasouli says that if any one has concerns in this regard they can share it with his office, which "would again take a decision".
So far 12 individuals have been identified as accused in the case that includes Mohammad Sayeed Mansoor, a former head of Kabul education, and some of his low and high ranking subordinates. Mansoor did not talk to Killid despite repeated promises for an interview.
Computers and printers
The third case of fraud that Killid investigated involves the purchase of 50 computers and 50 printers. The investigation by internal auditors shows that the purchases were made from nonexistent companies at much higher than market prices.
Sidiqi, the head of planning in internal audit, says, "We did not find either Afghan Capital or PowerPoint companies at the addresses that were shown to us."
The documents include a contract with PowerPoint Logistic company that was identified after a tender process. But not only is it a fraudulent document, no free bids were called by the provincial education department.
The dossier was sent to the AGO for further investigation on the advice of the minister of education on Nov 20, 2015. The AGO forwarded it to the Supreme Audit Office.
The latter disputed the audit claim on the price of computers and printers on the day it was purchased. The price was from two years later, Hanan Maroof, head of central budgetary units in Supreme Audit Office insists. "It is clear that the prices would differ after two years because electronic items' prices differ day by day because new items are brought to the market," he says.
According to Maroof, the procurement rules have not been flouted, and the contracted company has not inflated the rates. Instead he says, "In the beginning the contractor did not provide the items contracted, and the supplied items are different to those ordered, the items were rejected by the Ministry of Education and for the subsequent delay in re-supplying the items the contractor company should pay a fine."
Maroof says their investigations have concluded, and a report would soon be sent to the AGO. He also dismissed the charge that PowerPoint was a fictitious company. "The company is registered with AISA and located in front of Kabul traffic square. Our investigative team has visited it."