Building on recent expressions of political will to curb corruption, the Anti-Corruption Sub-Committee of NAC engages civil society actors, private sector entities and their organizations to examine and combat corruption in monetary transactions in four areas: (i) tax receipts and payments; (ii) customs; (iii) service provision in public health, education, public utilities; and (iv) technical knowledge by the public of relevant legislative documents. NAC’s approach combines applied research, training and mentoring, and advocacy.
It is widely acknowledged that corruption is a key deterrent preventing development aid from reaching the most vulnerable segments in the recipient countries. State building in Afghanistan has been guided by the shared intent of establishing democratic / good governance whose main characteristics are accountability, transparency, rule of law, responsiveness, inclusivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and participation. Most of these elements have been weak or missing from the mode of governance in Afghanistan while a crosscutting theme undermining efforts to institute these elements has been systemic corruption.
Corrupt actors, national and extra-national, have made fortunes through misappropriation of hundreds of millions dollars of aid money flowing into Afghanistan since 2001. Research and evaluations by Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO) and others in Afghanistan have revealed time and again that endemic corruption is a serious threat to social, economic, and political stability of the country. The myriad of different and innovative ways in which corruption is practiced in Afghanistan, despite numerous attempts by the international donors to find formal regulatory solutions to the problem, is at once fascinating and horrifying.
Corruption has become part and parcel of how donor aid funds are expensed, how ordinary people go about their daily lives, and how private sector actors conduct their business activity. All actors, to one degree or another, play a role in perpetuating corruption. There are currently 32 different expressions for alerting service users that they should pay a bribe. Afghans and internationals working in Afghanistan have had little choice but to succumb to pressure and contribute to corruption in a country where there was, until just over a decade ago, a tradition of shaming the families of those who were thought to be taking bribes. The opposite is the case in 2015. Those who refuse to take bribes are now looked down upon as being unworthy, incompetent, or lacking courage.
Numerous statements by President Ghani and recent statements by others have renewed the urgency of curbing corruption in Afghanistan. These statements indicate that despite Afghanistan’s many challenges there is sufficient political will by the government and its international donors to make every effort to curb and eliminate corruption.
To date, international donors and governments have focused their efforts on curbing corruption within the Government of Afghanistan. The main instruments in these efforts have been legislation, regulatory reform, and setting up anti-corruption bodies. These interventions have proven insufficient and inadequate, targeting only the government and neglecting the significant roles played by the general public, private sector, and international donors in either failing to combat corruption or perpetuating corruption by corrupt or corruptive practices.
The focus by international donors on legislative reform and addressing corruption in government is justified, however, particularly given how corruption undermines effective and equitable service provision for the most vulnerable. Corruption in the government drains resources for service delivery and development – with serious implications for state legitimacy. Citizens’ Forum Against Corruption protects individuals and organizations targeted for extortion by corrupt officials and advocates upholding the rule of law as a necessary condition for improved state-civil society relations toward good governance in Afghanistan.