AFGHANISTAN: NGOs under pressure in government anti-corruption drive


The recent ban on around 150 NGOs - almost all of them local NGOs - for flouting reporting procedures is believed to be an Afghan government attempt to demonstrate it is taking action against corruption, aid workers say.

Laurent Sailard, director of ACBAR, an umbrella body for over 100 local and international NGOs, said NGOs must not be used as scapegoats: "NGOs have only spent about 10 percent of the foreign assistance to Afghanistan."

"Through prompt reporting and oversight, we are trying to ensure corruption is tackled within the NGO community," said Sediq Amarkhil, a spokesman of the Ministry of Economy which registers and monitors NGOs, adding that the cases of 30 foreign NGOs were under review for possible corruption. "One NGO has spent 60 percent of its funds on staff salaries and administrative costs."

The government of President Hamid Karzai has been ranked the third most corrupt state in the world by Transparency International, and Karzai is under strong international pressure from Western donors to tackle corruption.

"We are concerned with continuing corruption at all levels of government. We know that without addressing this very serious issue long-term success is jeopardized," US Senator John Mccain told reporters in Kabul on 10 November.

The government has ordered all NGOs to stop renting luxury homes, buying fancy cars and paying high salaries to foreign staff.

"According to Article 43 of the NGO law, the unnecessary recruitment of foreigners must be avoided and instead attention and priority should be given to the employment of Afghan nationals," said a Ministry of Economy statement in August.

"There are a lot of expensive cars around but they don't belong to NGOs," said ACBAR's Sailard, adding that most NGOs did not use armoured vehicles or have big offices.

"We report every item in our possession such as computers, furniture, cars and even mobile phone handsets to the Economy Ministry," Hamidullah Saljuqi of the local NGO Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA) told IRIN.

Government announcement

On 9 November the Economy Ministry announced the dissolution of 149 NGOs, including four international NGOs, saying they had failed to submit six-monthly reports to the government for two years. Back in May the Ministry dissolved 172 NGOs, including 20 international NGOs.

Indicating that the government's approach was measured, Ministry spokesman Amarkhil told IRIN: "The decision to revoke the licenses of NGOs which have not corresponded with the Economy Ministry for over two years, was taken in consultation with NGO representatives."

Sailard said some of the dissolved NGOs had already shut their offices. IRIN tried to contact dissolved NGOs Polish Medical Mission and The Frontier but to no avail.

Over 1,400 NGOs, up to 300 of them foreign, are registered with the Ministry, but no one knows how many are active.

Care International, which has operated in Afghanistan since 1961, said it was regularly submitting six-monthly reports to the Ministry and was happy to demonstrate its transparency and accountability. CHA said the reporting process was highly bureaucratic and confusing.

Source:IRIN News