Corruptionin Afghanistan and policy recommendations
Statementof the problem:
Corruptionhas been rampant for several decades and ranks as the secondchallenging problem facing Afghanistan. The problem poses a gravethreat to the economic development and stability of Afghanistan.Despite various anti-corruption initiative and support from the U.S.and the international donor community, Afghanistan is far fromeradicating the challenging issue.
Thereport draws attention to the point that Afghanistan is the world`stop five most corrupt countries. Several studies reveal thatcorruption is more prevalent in the military, police, and judiciary,the departments responsible for maintaining and enforcing the law.Investigations through national surveys point out that more than halfAfghans give bribe to teachers, customs officials, police officersand even judges to receive services. Anti-corruption initiatives havenot succeeded in rooting out corruption in Afghanistan because seniorgovernment official, top-level and low-level public servants hindertheir implementation and enforcement.
Thecurrent Afghan government needs to implement an all-inclusiveanti-corruption policy that will encourage participation by the civilsociety. The government should also sign an integrity pledge to senda clear warning from the top down that corruption is no longertolerated in any of the Afghan`s public offices. Additionally, thegovernment should prioritize its effort to combat money launderingand financing of terrorism activities. Most importantly, the currentAfghan administration should identify ways through which the U.S. andinternational donor community assist the anti-corruption efforts.Finally but not the least, the government should invest in trainingthe military, police, and the judiciary and utilize the availabletechnology to reinforce its fight against terrorism.
Corruptionposes a grave threat to Afghan`s economic development and stability.Therefore, there is the need for the formulation and implementationof a comprehensive policy to eradicate the persistent and prevalentproblem.
Ingeneral, corruption can be defined as the abuse of entrusted powerfor personal gains at the expense of the public. However, there arevarious classifications of corruption such as petty, grand orpolitical depending on the amounts of money/resources stolen and thesector in which it takes place(Bentzen, 167).When policies are manipulated by people in power to ensureinequitable allocation of resources, it is referred to as politicalcorruption. On the other hand, grand corruption involves distortionof policies by high-ranking officials allowing those in power toenrich themselves at the expense of the public good. Petty corruptionis the daily acts of bribery by low and mid-level civil servants asthey interact with the ordinary citizens. According to(Torabi, 2), allthese forms of corruption are widespread in Afghanistan, placing thenation among the top five most corrupt countries in the world.Corruption in Afghanistan is a national problem because it hasadversely affected the economic development and stability of thecountry. Despite the implementation of various anti-corruptionpolicies, Afghanistan is still far from eradicating the problem ofbribery. The current paper aims to discuss the problem of corruptionin Afghanistan and explain how and why it came to be. The paper willthen discuss some policy recommendations that can be implemented toeradicate or at least alleviate the challenging issue.
Howand why the problem came to be
Corruptionin Afghanistan is not a recent phenomenon but a deep-rooted issuethat has eaten the socioeconomic and political fabrics of the countryfor several decades. Several studies argue that corruption inAfghanistan became widespread after the rise of Taliban in the 1990swhich was facilitated by the withdrawal of the Soviet Union. Duringthis era, influential warlords who received international supportcontrolled the economy. It is reported that before Taliban`sadministration, Afghanistan was characterized by grand corruptionmostly perpetrated by warlords and other high-ranking governmentofficials(Marquette,1873). The warlords exercised brutality, and the ordinary citizensfeared to protest against their bad policies and inequitableallocation of resources. According to (Goodhand,411), during the era ofmujahideenwarlords, corruption had penetrated almost every part of theAfghanistan’s economy.
Followingthe removal of Taliban from power by the U.S. in 2001, corruptionwhich had become a norm during the pre-Taliban era once again becamewidespread in Afghanistan. According to (Boucher, 11), after Talibanoverthrow, corruption penetrated every fiber on the Afghanistan’seconomy and even spread to the regional and local government bodies.Hamid Karzai, the president at then, tied with a broad network offriends, who were political elites and positioned themselves in themiddle of the Western donors and ordinary Afghans (Marquette,1876).Consequently, the politicians used these positions to block andreroute billions of foreign aid into their personal accounts andthose of the relatives at the expense of the public. The corruptactions of Hamid and his allies resulted in several high-profilescandals such as the Ponzi scheme of the Kabul Bank, which operatedonly to benefit the president and his friends.
Accordingto (Khan,3), for decades, Afghanistan has experienced conflicts that haveblocked the formation of transparent and efficient state institutionsand civil society bodies. Consequently, for decades, the country hassuffered from poor implementation and enforcement of laws that shouldprevent corruption. For a long time, the anti-corruption agenciescome up with policies that contradict on another and lack adequatefunding (Lambsdorff, 8). Additionally, most of the police personnelare illiterate and lack proper training on how to fight terrorism. Infact, current trends show that the military and other policepersonnel are the most corrupt in Afghanistan (Bentzen, 171). TheAfghanistan government has ignored the fact that most of its publicservants especially the mid and low-level employees are underpaid. Asa result, public servants have indulged in bribery on a daily basisas they interact with the ordinary citizens to enhance theirearnings.
Afghanistanhas experienced constant warfare for several decades allowinghigh-ranking public servants to channel public funds in theirpersonal accounts (Marquette, 1872). Furthermore, (Mujtaba, 247)points out that the nation’s tribal and ethnic divisions encouragepeople in power to misuse public`s funds to benefit their relativesand secure them the position in government offices. Mujtaba arguesthat Afghan traditions which require people from the same tribe orethnicity to support each other have for a long time, prevented theelection and appointment of qualified individuals in public positions(248). Consequently, the elected and appointed public officials areincompetent and only focus on embezzling public funds for their ownand relatives` benefits. The public appointments which are notmerit-based have resulted in massive corruption in all sectors ofAfghan the economy. Additionally, narcotics trade in Afghanistan hasfor decades received international support making it impossible foranti-corruption policies to work in the country (Goodhand, 408).
Thecurrent prevalence of corruption in Afghanistan
Atpresent, corruption is not only widespread among the Afghanistan’spolitical elites but has permeated every feature of governmentoperations (Bentzen, 167). According to a survey carried by the U.N.in 2012, almost half of the Afghans confessed having given a bribe toa teacher to receive special attention and better services. A similarnumber reported having bribed customs officials, judges, policeofficers and prosecutors. The ordinary Afghans have accepted the facttheir nation is corrupt and do not hesitate in perpetrating briberyas long as it enables them to get what they want (Mujtaba, 246). Allgovernment institutions, from the local level to the ministries arefertile grounds for all forms of corruption. In a recent New YorkTimes article, corruption in Afghanistan has been described as acancer of the system, eating each cell of the nation. Osmani reportsthat customs and border control are the most fertile grounds forcorruption in Afghanistan (301). He argues that more than half of theannual customs income is lost through corruption and ends upenriching a few instead of building the Afghan economy.
Figure1: A pie chart showing corrupt official in Afghanistan. Source:
Themost troubling fact about corruption in Afghanistan is that it is onthe rise among the military and the judiciary, the organs responsiblefor maintaining law and order (Torabi, 15). From public opinionscollected in various studies, the Afghan National police, judges andprosecutors have become notorious for perpetrating grand and pettycorruption. The Afghan Ministry of the Interior has been blamedseverally by activists and the public for failing to account forbillions of dollars allocated for police remuneration through a U.Ncontrolled trust fund. According to a recent audit report by SIGAR,the ministry is blamed for embezzling as much as 50% of a policeofficer`s salary (4). As a result, the police personnel is currentlyunderpaid, who then turn to corrupt deals in their daily interactionswith the ordinary citizens to boost their meager salaries. Accordingto (Torabi, 14), in 2012, the Asia Foundation carried a survey, whichrevealed that more than half Afghans who interested with a policeofficer were either directly or indirectly asked to pay a bribe.
Figure2: A graph showing daily corruption in Afghanistan
Impactsof corruption on the economic development and security in Afghanistan
Corruptionposes serious challenges to Afghanistan`s development and safetyagenda (Bentzen, 168). For many decades, corruption has in increaseddramatically and has been argued to be one of the threats facingAfghanistan’s efforts to rebuild its economy. Coleman perceivescorruption as a significant obstruction to the process of stabilizingand rebuilding Afghanistan (6). Coleman further points out thatcorruption has hindered equitable allocation of Afghan’s resourcesresulting in uneven economic development. In a 2013 interview withthe U.S. President Obama, Gen. John Allen, who by then was thecommander of international forces in Afghanistan, said thatcorruption was the greatest threat to the nation`s economicresources. Corruption is detrimental to a country`s economy becauseit widens the gap between the rich and the poor (Bentzen, 173).Consequently, most of the poor people live below the poverty linehence cannot meet necessities such as food, shelter and clothing.Coleman argues that corruption is the cause of the thousands ofhomeless Afghans suffering in the street with no food to eat (7). Tomake the situation worse, the international aid aimed at helping suchpoor people lands in the pockets of the few, powerful people.Therefore, the poor become poorer and continue to suffer as thewealthy become wealthier.
Theimpacts of corruption in any nation are much felt by the poor. Due tohigh levels of corruption in Afghanistan, billions of funds meant fordevelopment have been diverted into personal accounts, leaving thepoor with inadequate essential services (Boucher, 16). Many of thepoor Afghans have learned to survive by chance without access topublic services since they cannot afford to pay a bribe to thecorrupt public officers. Additionally, corruption has discouraged toAfghanistan. According to (Khan, 18), many developed nations feargiving aids to corrupt nations such as Afghanistan because they knowit might land in the pockets of the powerful and the rich, who in thelong run might use it to fund criminal activities such as terrorism.Such a case happened during Taliban`s era when funds in the form ofinternational aid meant for development landed in the hands ofwarlords who were the primary perpetrators of corruption inAfghanistan at that time. The warlords used the funds to strengthentheir fight against Taliban’s administration since it failed tosupport them. Additionally, corruption discourages foreigninvestment. According to (Coleman, 14), the high level of corruptionin Afghanistan has discouraged many foreign investors which amount tothe loss of income and employment opportunities.
Corruptionadversely affects the revenue collected by a state from customs andtaxes (Bentzen, 174). Bentzen points that due to corruption customand tax revenues are misappropriated living the government with aninadequate resource to offer basic services to the public. InAfghanistan, corruption has incapacitated to an extent that it cannotsupport any infrastructural developments especially in the ruralareas, where the majority of the poor people live. According to(Lambsdorff, 32), corruption has created problems such as inequality,injustice, poor economic growth and high poverty levels. Bentzenpoints out that the Afghanistan government cannot achieve sustainedeconomic growth and social development as long as corruption isimpended in its social fabric (175). Moreover, corruption hasconstrained the development of the private sector in Afghanistanbecause it has created issues such as high transaction costs,lengthy procurement procedures, exposure to private entrepreneurs tothreats. Many local business people are afraid of expanding theirbusiness due to the volatility of licensing and issues related toproperty ownership. As a result, the private sector, which is one ofthe strongest pillars of Afghanistan economy, is shrieking leading toreduced income for the government and lack of employmentopportunities for many Afghan citizens.
Goodhandpoints out apart from derailing economic development in Afghanistancorruption is also eroding the security and human rights of theordinary citizens (413). According to Goodhand, corruption inwar-torn countries such as Afghanistan has increased the risk ofconflicts between the poor and the rich. Moreover, corruption haspervaded the very fabric of how Afghanistan works, making itimpossible for the ordinary citizens to seek justice in courts ordemand accountability from the authorities in charge of law and order(Boucher, 17). When corruption is deep-rooted in a nation, it widensthe gap between the citizens and the government since the formerfails to trust the latter. In such a society, the public does notreport any crime to the authorities hence crime rate go high. Themost crucial impact of corruption in Afghanistan is the weakening ofthe state, which has allowed more criminals such as drug dealers tooperate. According to (Osmani, 321), high levels of corruption haveweakened most of the institutions in Afghanistan, making the countrya fertile ground for activities that threaten the citizens’ safety.It is also important to note that corruption has created securityissues that are chasing away of the foreign investors (Coleman, 20).
Whathas been done to fight corruption in Afghanistan?
Since2001, the Afghan government with the help from the internationalcommunity has implemented several agencies and commissions to combatcorruption. The members of the anti-corruption agencies are drawnfrom all the branches of the government to ensure the factors thatundermine integrity in the nation are efficiently addressed (Goodman& Sutton, par19). The most significant of all the efforts thatthe Afghan government has made to fight corruption is theestablishment of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption(HOOAC). The office came into existence after recommendations byAzimi commission. The committee which was established via apresidential decree consisted of senior personnel in the government.The function of the commission was to provide recommendations on howthe government could efficiently address the issue of administrativecorruption in the country. The Committee’s final report which wasreleased in 2008 provided an overview of causes if corruption in thecountry and their solutions. The committee further advised thegovernment to establish a body that would oversee the implementationand operationalization of its recommendations.
Accordingto (Goodman & Sutton, par22), the establishment of HOOAC in someextent revealed that the government had acknowledged the fact thatcorruption had gone out of hand and some new strategies needed to beadopted to address the issue. HOOAC has achieved milestones bycracking down institutions and individuals involved in high-profilescandals. Other strategies include encouraging the public to reportcorrupt government officials and institutions to the relevantauthorities. However, several studies argue that government’sstrategies to fight corruption have not been successful since theproblem remains Afghanistan’s second biggest challenge afterviolence. The reason why Afghanistan has not yet succeeded ineradicating poverty is that the government bodies that are supposedto ensure HOOAC works are the ones that perpetrate and supportcorruption. Additionally, the government has not yet won public trusthence the failure by the ordinary citizens to report cases ofcorruption (Lambsdorff, 45).
Accordingto (Khan, 34), government interventions such as the HOOAC that areaimed at addressing the issue of corruption in Afghanistan have beenhindered by senior government officials who aim at enrichingthemselves. Such senior political figures violate anti-corruptionlaws and evade the law because the judiciary and police personnel arecorrupt. After taking office, the current Afghanistan President Ghaniand his Chief Executive Abdullah promised the Afghans to get rid ofcorruption, especially from the government and all other publicoffices (Goodman & Sutton, par24). After taking the Afghan toppolitical seat, Ghani reopened an investigation to find out thepeople involved in the Kabul Bank scandal. However, the currentgovernment still faces significant challenges since corruption isrampant and widespread in Afghanistan. Experts point out that Afghancitizens are tired of corruption and want to see the governmentimplement efficient strategies that will eradicate or at leastalleviate the problem.
Afghanistancannot effectively fight corruption or even win the battle toeliminate it without political will. For several decades,Afghanistan has lacked the political will needed to stem outcorruption. If the current administration aims to achieve anysignificant milestones in the fight against corruption, it needs toformulate and implement an effective and realistic policy. In fact,the Afghanistan government should make the fight against bribery atop priority to rebuild its economy. The government’s effortsshould not only focus on passing laws but most importantly,implementing and enforcing them. The best thing is that several othercountries have successfully fought against corruption, producing anabundance of lessons and best practices that Afghanistan can utilize.The Afghanistan national unity government should begin to employ theextensive knowledge gathered from anti-corruption strategies thathave succeeded in other nations. The proposed anti-corruption policyshould aim to achieve the following:
Send a warning against bribery from the top down
Politicalwill is crucial in the fight against corruption. Therefore, it isimportant that the current and future Afghan governments show thepublic that they are serious in prioritizing the efforts to eradicategrand and other bribery acts in all public offices by signing anintegrity pledge. The integrity pledge will make it clear to allpublic personnel especially those at the top positions that all actsof corruption will not be tolerated and hence shape a new way ofdoing business in Afghanistan. When senior government officials actas role models by enforcing anti-corruption initiatives,it motivates the ordinary citizens to follow the same trend(Lambsdorff, 34). The integrity pledge would be more practical if itwere integrated with enforceable clauses existing in the Afghanistanlaw such as anti-bribery and anti-money laundering articles. It isimportant to point out that the integrity pledge will be a valuabletool in the fight against corruption since it will help restorepublic trust in elected officials and close the gap between thesociety and the government. Additionally, important actions will be aclear indicator to low-level civil servants that corruption will nolonger be accepted in any of the government offices.
Prioritize efforts to fight money laundering and terrorism finance
Currently,the Afghanistan government is faced with the challenge ofillegitimate trade and smuggling as a result of high level ofcorruption (Khan, 2). Moreover, the criminal justice system isinefficient allowing money laundering and acts of terrorism tocontinue in the country. It is, therefore, very crucial that thecurrent Afghan administration prioritizes and focus on creating anefficient system that will stem out money laundering and terrorismfinance. Despite the current Afghan president, Ghani promising thecitizens to fight such evils, a significant gap remains insupervisory mechanisms, which are crucial in preventing future bankscandals and ensure those responsible for stealing public funds facethe law (Coleman, 10). The proposed policy should make sure that thecurrent administration has the political will to make since effortsneeded to resolve the Kabul Bank scandal and prevent similaroccurrences in the future.
Ensure civil society participation in the fight against corruption
Atpresent, Afghanistan has a promising but growing base of civilsociety organizations that are working hard to ensure ordinaryAfghans get their rights. The civil society can act as the overseerfor public interest and provide checks that are needed to stopcorruption and embezzlement of public funds. Given the failure of theformer administrations in addressing the issue of corruption, thecurrent Afghan government should allow the participation of civilsociety to ensure the opinions and interests of the ordinary citizensare considered. Increasing the involvement of the civil society inanti-corruption policy formulation and implementation will enhanceadherence and hence ensure its success. Afghanistan shouldimmediately consider becoming a member of the Open GovernmentPartnership (OGP) established in 2011. OGP is a bilateral planfounded to support efficient teamwork between governments and civilsociety to enhance transparency, eradicate bribery and make use ofnew technologies to reinforce governance. By joining OGP, Afghanistanwill not only benefit from the enhanced relationship between thegovernment and civil society but will also have a chance to utilizeknowledge and best practices from other member countries andinternational institutions. Additionally, after joining OGP,Afghanistan stands to benefit from the support and recommendationoffered by international experts on how to combat corruption.
Support training of the military, police and judiciary on issues surrounding corruption
Fightingcorruption in Afghanistan is not a simple task because it is deeprooted and has eaten the departments responsible for maintaining lawand order (Goodhand, 420). The United States and other donors havecontinuously funded Afghanistan to ensure their military, police andjudiciary personnel are well equipped to wipe out corruption.However, such funds have been embezzled by senior officials in thesedepartments making it impossible to fight corruption. The policyshould, therefore, ensure the government puts measures that ensurethe expansion and building of international training standards amongthe relevant personnel. The current Afghan administration needs totrain staff in the military, police and judiciary to ensure theprosecution of corrupt government officials. Additionally, adequatetraining will guarantee the revival of the Major Crime Task Forces,the Sensitive Investigative Unit and the Technical InvestigativeUnit, all of which are ital in the fight against corruption.
Afghancitizens are demanding for an honest government that will stop atnothing to stem out of corruption that has eaten the country’ssocioeconomic and political fabrics (Coleman, 3). The use oftechnology can significantly boost Afghan’s efforts to eradicatecorruption. The government should start initiatives aimed atutilizing the social media and other forms of emerging communicationtechnologies to motivate anticorruption dialogues. The technologiescan also be used to educate the public on the issues surroundingcorruption encourage public participation in reporting any acts ofbribery both in the public and private sector. Currently, the Afghanpopulation that owns a cell phone is more than 70%, and the internetservice is rapidly gaining popularity. Therefore, the adoption oftechnology in the fight against corruption will reach out to manypeople, some of whom are not even aware whether such a problem existsor not.
Identify ways through which the U.S. and the International Community can support anti-corruption initiatives
The United States and theinternational donor community should continue offering support t theAfghan government it all its anti-corruption efforts. However, thedonors should not have unrealistic expectations of about the probablepace of progress because unnecessary pressure might end up inimproper use of the international aid. According to (Marquette,1886), it is crucial that the fight against corruption remains underthe jurisdiction of the Afghan’s government to ensure any foreigndonation received is used appropriately. Forthe Afghan’s government to win the trust and hence get more supportfrom the U.S. and international donor community, it should ensuretransparency and accountability ofevery single penny received. Additionally, capacity building andpublic dialogue are essential to ensure the continued technicalassistance in the fight against corruption. Most importantly, theAfghan government should support anti-corruption agencies such as theHOOAC to ensure the efficient monitoring of foreign aid hence boostaccountability and attract more support from the internationaldonors.Conclusion
Thereis adequate evidence from the paper that corruption remains apandemic in Afghanistan. Corruption remains the second mostchallenging problems facing Afghans and has hindered economicdevelopment and security for decades. Despite the prevalence ofcorruption in Afghanistan, there is no comprehensive and an updatedpolicy in place to address the issue. As recently as 2015, SIGARdeclared that even the United States lacked a comprehensiveanti-corruption strategy that could alleviate bribery issues inAfghanistan. Given the immense amount of foreign assistance thatAfghan receives from the U.S. and other international donors, thegovernment needs to implement a plan that will efficiently fightcorruption in the country. The proposed policy should ensure that theAfghan government prioritizes the efforts to root out corruption bysigning an integrity pledge that will send a warning to all publicservants that corruption will no longer be tolerated. The UnitedStates and the international donor community should continuesupporting Afghanistan in its anticorruption fight. On the otherhand, the current and future Afghan governments should strive toensure accountability of the funds received to ensure the foreigndonors do not back off. With the help of the U.S. officials, theAfghan government should implement an all-inclusive anti-corruptionstrategy that will encourage civil society participation andexploitation of the available forms of technology.
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