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The Killid Group
No takers for development fundsWritten by Hamed Kohestani
Saturday, 15 January 2011 14:54
The Finance Ministry's evaluation of the first six months in 2010 shows that many ministries and other government organizations failed to utilize their development budgets despite the widespread poverty and misery in the country.
Independent opinion blames the poor social services delivery on administrative corruption, nepotism in appointments of top officials, and poor implementation capacity.
The last may be the biggest stumbling block to development efforts. Shams Afghan, a Kabul resident, says: "Well qualified people are missing in Afghan state organizations. They are not able to utilize facilities and solve peoples' problems."
The view is echoed by Aziz Shams, spokesman in the Finance Ministry. "This ministry has visited different ministries in order to discuss and seek a solution for the low-spending of development budgets this year," he explains. "It was clear low-working capacity can be considered the main obstacle."
The review by the Finance Ministry began with the Ministry of Health, plagued with problems of poor delivery of health care services to people. The conclusion was startling: poor human resource development was crippling well funded plans to raise the quality of health care. Other reviews that followed revealed all government departments and organizations suffered from similar problems.
Finance Ministry officials have shared their concerns with the government. "Afghan ministries' development budgets spending was not satisfactory and that's why Finance Ministry have met officials of the different organizations and ministries," Sham's, the spokesman, clarified.
Ministries spent between seven and 25 percent of their development budgets.
- Ministry of Health - 16 percent
- Ministry of Public Works - 25 percent
- Ministry of Energy - 7 percent
- Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development - 13 percent
- Ministry of Higher Education - 14 percent
- Afghan Environment Protection Agency- 1 percent.
Afghan Environmental Protection Agency
At the bottom of the list of ministries, the agency is faced with multiple challenges including increasing levels of air pollution particularly in Kabul. The agency has itself announced that roughly 3,000 Afghan children die every year from pollution related diseases.
Dr. Abas Basir, deputy of International Relations and Policy Making at the agency, has denied the allegations and figures issued by the Finance Ministry. "We had planned to buy vehicles, water and soil air checking machines but we have not been able to because of our financial problems," he told Killid. In addition, the agency's plan to open new offices in Kabul and Mazar, and buy a number of vehicles for the purpose of inspection could not be implemented "because of bureaucracy," he claimed.
However, Kabul resident, Abdul Alem, who says the agency should be raising awareness and informing the public about environmental issues, is doing very little. "We only hear the name of this agency when they hold a conference or workshop or a press conference. Otherwise its activities are not visible."
According to Basir, the agency pins the blame on the Afghan Administrative Reforms and Civil Services. He says, "We try to find and hire experts, but when their names are referred to the Afghan Administrative Reforms and Civil Services, they are rejected because they are not able to provide all the documentation that they insist on."
The charge is denied by Sayed Zabihullah Sawiz, who heads the secretariat of the Administrative Reforms and Civil Services. The candidates were rejected because they were not chosen for their qualification but who they were close to in the agency, he says. "They did not have specialization or the work experience," he explained.
Ministry of Energy
Kabul is plagued by electricity shortages. For most residents uninterrupted power is a distant dream. The Finance Ministry which looked into the accounts of the Energy Ministry found that a mere 7 percent of its 2010 budget was utilized in the first six months.
Mr. Samee, engineer and deputy in the ministry's financial and administrative department, dismissed the figure and said, "approximately 361 million dollars was budgeted for the launch of 53 nationwide power projects this year … more than 30 percent of it was spent."
He blamed the slowness in implementation on government red tape. The process of procurement is poor, and slows down development projects, he said.
Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development
This ministry spent 13 percent of its budget between January and July 2010, according to Finance Ministry calculations. Jaraullah Mansoori, minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, flatly denied the figure. "In the first half of year we mainly focused on making proposals, electing and creating local councils for villages," he stressed. "We will spend most of the budget in the second half of the year … currently some 1.5 millions dollars is being spent across the country."
Will development efforts reach even remote and inaccessible parts of the country? Mansoori's answer is complicated. "Some provinces have adequate facilities to absorb development efforts. In others there are technical hurdles. But as soon as the money reaches the Village Development Council "it is not in the ministry's power to spend the funds."
Villagers appear to be dissatisfied with the quality of projects implemented by the council. Shah Wali, resident of Gul Koh village, Gharabagh District in Ghazni province, complains about the project to rebuild irrigation canals. "The representatives of the local council did not complete the canal project. Only half the work was done. They embezzled roughly 1.1 million Afs!" he alleged.
Ministry of Public Health
Hundreds of Afghans travel abroad for medical treatment. Services are abysmally poor. The Ministry of Public Health, however, spent only 16 percent of its development budget in the first half of 2010.
Dr. Abdullah Fahim, advisor to the Ministry of Public Health, puts forth his own set of figures. "This year's development budget is more than 127 millions dollars and approximately 43 percent of it has been spent so far." According to Dr. Fahim, the money was processed through the Ministry of Finance.
Reacting to allegations that top jobs were decided on the basis of a candidate's closeness to people in power, Dr. Fahim said, "Maybe there were a number of weak and lazy officials but it is not a problem. This ministry is implementing fair and full healthcare services, repairing hospitals and clinics."
Ministry of Public Works
The charge against this ministry is that it has spent a quarter of its total budget for the year.
Dr. Ahmad Shah Wahid, the deputy of Finance and Administration, said in defence that the risky security situation, the suspension of rules of procurement, and delay in passing laws in the Afghan parliament, were the reasons for the lower than targeted spending by the ministry.
Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Finance has accused the Ministry of Higher Education of spending only 14 percent of its annual development budget. The Killid Group tried its best to get reactions from officials in the ministry but failed.
Administrative corruption and lack of experienced bureaucrats have emerged as major reasons for Afghanistan's continued under development despite billions of dollars of development aid spent in the country.
Nasir Ahmad Hakimi, head of Afghanistan Reconstruction and Development Services (Ministry of Economy), says: "The main reason for under spending (development budgets) is the failure of Afghan officials to stick to the schedule of project plans and nepotism in hiring people at different levels."
Mr. Sawiz, of the Afghan Administrative Reforms and Civil Services secretariat says: "Capacity building in government organizations will be possible only through professional training and not through political interference for personal interests which obstruct the process for hiring staff through the Administrative Reforms programme."
According to Saifuddin Saihoon, lecturer in the Economics faculty of Kabul University, the failure to punish erring officials has allowed corruption to spread.
Government officials claim they are not the only culprits for the poor performance in the first half of 2010. Unfortunately Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, lower house, passed the Annual Development Budget very late last year. Sadeqi Zada Nilly, member of Financial and Budget Committee in the Wolesi Jirga, said it was mainly because of the lack of commitment of government officials.
In 2010, the government's national budget decreased from 118 billion Afs in 2009 to approximately 99 billion Afs.