Corruption Remains Rampant in Afghanistan

As an Afghan citizen living in Afghanistan, corruption has become an accepted practice for getting anything done.

afghanistan-corruption-rampantA recent report from Transparency International listed Afghanistan as one of the 3 highest countries with the perception of corruption in public services. The CPI index ranked Afghanistan 175 on the scale of 1 to 175.

As an Afghan citizen living in Afghanistan, the ranking is not an exaggeration.

Corruption has become an accepted practice for getting anything done. It encompasses not only the public sector, but is also a problem within many international organizations and donors working in the country on development issues.

Both the Afghan government and non-government organizations, including the civil society, need to take serious steps to root out this demeaning issue.

Corruption has been one of the core challenges facing the Afghan government. In the past 12 years and in a post-conflict society, Afghans have been plagued by weak institutions and uncertainty.

The perception of corruption is not only an issue in the public service of Afghanistan, it has become an undisclosed and undiscussed issue in the donor programs implemented off-budget by various international contractors. Experience and discussion with various Afghans working for non-government organizations says that 15% has become a norm to be provided as kickbacks to individuals or teams working on grants or procurement in various organizations. Most of the grant units have a pool of friends that understand and agree to their demands and only those friends get contracts.

International organizations and diaspora-led NGOs exploit the weak oversight institutional capacity in Afghanistan

Being savvy in using financial tricks to obscure corruption or being “friends” of certain people in the donor community enables them to get contracts, which are usually overpriced and burdened with unreasonable administrative costs. In addition, they get the contracts easier than local organizations; any corrupt behavior in their misusing development aid goes unnoticed for the sake of mutual benefits.

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Ordinary Afghans have no option but to remain weary and frustrated with the widespread corruption resulting in a minimum impact of the billions of dollars spent here in Afghanistan.

This must change. Both the Afghan government and the Afghan people, including its international partners, must commit to eradicating corruption for good. Afghans need to work with our international partners to become vigilant and accountable of the use and misuse of both public money and the donor aid provided to the country.

Getting rid of corruption is not just an ethical matter; it is also a requirement particularly in post-2014 Afghanistan where resource will be scarce and development needs remain huge.

Moheb Arsalan J. is an Afghan analyst and commentator on governance, conflict, and socioeconomic affairs in the Af-Pak region. He studied economics at Kabul University and Bard College, NY as a Fulbright, and holds a graduate degree in Governance and Public Policy from Willy Brandt School in Germany as a DAAD Scholar. Moheb is based in Kabul and can be reached at arsalan.moheb@gmail.com.