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The Killid Group
Development: Case of unutilised fundsWritten by Hamed Kohistani
Saturday, 07 January 2012 15:48
Even as development funds keep on shrinking, Ministry of Finance figures reveal many ministries have spent only 30 percent of the allocated amount in the first eight months of 2011.
The level of spending has not matched the budget allocations for several years. A scrutiny of the final reports of the finance ministry shows the Afghan government has not been able to build up capacity to spend its development budget and implement development projects year after year.
Azizudin Shams, spokesman of the Ministry of Finance, says henceforth the ministry will approve development projects after considering the ministries' spending capacities. Thereafter, their weekly implementing reports will be submitted to the weekly cabinet meeting.
"The assessment of the first six months found the ministries had under spent. The performance was in comparison better than last year. Ministry of Finance hopes the figures will only improve," spokesman Shams said.
However, the Ministry of Economy, which is responsible for the implementation of projects, has not reported an improvement in either the implementation or the spending on projects this year.
Sayed Aref Nazeef, director of projects, was of the view that the problems that restricted both spending and completion of projects "remained in the current year as well."
The many reasons for the poor implementation of development projects include lack of security, low human resource capacity, complicated supply systems of the World Bank, poor coordination between government departments, donors and the government. Amar Khan Yar, head of the parliamentary financial and budget committee, thinks the biggest stumbling block is the shortage of human resources in the government.
A quick look at the spending records of individual ministries for the first eight months show the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not touch its development budget, Breshna (the electricity department) utilised 1 percent, water supply and irrigation department 3 percent, Ministry of Culture and Information 5 percent, Ministry of Defence 6 percent, Environment 7 percent, Ministry of Commerce 9 percent, Mines and Industries 15 percent, Economic Affairs 15 percent, Higher Education 21 percent and Public Works 22 percent.
Hameedullah Faroqi, a lecturer in the economics faculty of Kabul University, thinks the situation could improve if parliament was more directly involved, if high-ranking officials paid more attention to meeting goals, and if projects were less donor and more human resource driven.
Water supply and irrigation
Access to clean water is a dream for most Afghans. Money was allocated for taking piped water to communities but little has been debited.
Dad Mohammad Baheer, the director, refuted the conclusions arrived at by the Ministry of Finance. The reason for the apparent low spending is the long supply and purchasing process, he insisted.
International organisations support most of the projects undertaken by the department, the director said. As a result they spent only 1.5 million USD from the development budget for a water project in Andkhoy district, Faryab province. A detailed account of expenses incurred and related documentation will be sent to the Ministry of Finance soon, Mohammad Baheer said.
Environmental Protection Agency
Officials here spent 7 percent of the budget. Mir Mohammad Kazem Habibi, head of finance and accounts in the EPA, says they were allocated 1,046,000 USD for the implementation of four projects. Of this amount 700,000 USD was earmarked for the construction of the main building of the department - a year-long project. He confirmed the Ministry of Finance's figure but said the EPA was about to put up two demands for money, which would take the percentage of money spent from the development budget to 65 percent.
Kazem Habibi identified some of the other projects: improving air pollution in Kabul and the upkeep of the Kabul zoo, and providing rubbish bins in public places in the capital which will be partnered with the private sector.
Mines and Industries
Jawad Omar, the spokesman, dismissed the Ministry of Finance's figures. of ministry of Mines and Industries rejects the figures presented regarding the expenses of the mentioned ministry in first 8 months, he says, "Out of thirteen million dollar developmental allocated for this ministry an amount of eight million dollar has been spent and leadership of the ministry hopes to spend the remained budgets as well on the developmental projects of the year as well.
Sayed Aref Nazeef, director of the planning department, insists they have spent at least half of their development budget. The finance ministry has calculated only 15 percent had been spent in the first eight months.
Abdul Azim Noor Bakhsh, the spokesman, does not agree with the Ministry of Finance's calculations. Considering the situation of conflict in the country, projects for the promotion of higher education have been "implemented in a proper way", he insisted. The long-drawn supply and purchase process has slowed down project spending, he claimed. By year-end half the development budget would have been spent, he said.
Mohammad Akbar Barakzai, administrative and financial deputy minister, confirmed 22 percent of the budget was spent. According to him the projects were implemented as planned for. Since the contracting companies have claimed their expenses, he believes the ministry may have over budgeted for projects and not under spent as indicated by the Ministry of Finance figures.
Killid tried to meet officials in the ministries of defence, commerce, culture and information, and electricity department but there was no response.