Combating Corruption in a Conflict Situation. Appraising the Effectiveness of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan

Academic Paper, 2016

48 Pages

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Research Methodology

3. Literature Review
3.1. Contemporary Anti-Corruption Frameworks
3.1.1. Public Sector Reform:
3.1.2. Civil Society Organisations:
3.1.3. Oversight Institutions:
3.1.4. Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs):
3.2. Critics of the Contemporary Anti-Corruption Frameworks

4. Context of Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan

5. Framework for Evaluating the Anti-Corruption Approach in Afghanistan

6. High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan
6.1. HOO’s Structure
6.2. Recruitment Procedure
6.3. HOO’s Geographical Presence
6.4. HOO’s Functions:

7. Evaluating HOO’s Functions
7.1. Public Awareness
7.1.1. The Public Awareness Unit
7.1.2. The Information and Publication Unit
7.2. Corruption Prevention
7.2.1. Simplification of Public Service Delivery Processes
7.2.2. Legal Review
7.3. Law Enforcement
7.3.1. Complaint Management Department
7.3.2. Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department

8. Summary of Discussion and Analysis

9. Conclusion

10. References

List of Abbreviations

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List of Illustrations

Figure 1: The Biggest Problems in Afghanistan

Figure 2: Historical Scope of Corruption in Afghanistan

Figure 4: Afghanistan’s ranking in CPI

Figure 5: The Most Corrupt Public Institutions in Afghanistan

Figure 6: KPK Performance 2004 - 2008

Figure 7: HOO’s Administrative Structure

Figure 8: Afghanistan’s Map

Figure 9: The Afghan Anti-Corruption Approach to Curbing Corruption in Afghanistan

Figure 10: List of Simplified Public Service Delivery Processes in the Afghan State Institutions

Figure 11: Number of Reviewed Sectoral Laws and Muqararas

Figure 12: Afghan Anti-Corruption Approach

Figure 13: Number of Complaints Reported to the HOO in 2013


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

And do not consume one another's wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].2

The Messenger of Allah has said, ‘Cursed be the one who gives bribe, the one who takes a bribe, and the one who mediates this act’.3

The overall purpose of this dissertation is to appraise the effectiveness of the Afghan anticorruption framework. It discusses the main drivers of corruption in the context of Afghanistan and analyses whether and how in practice the HOO - as an Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) - succeeds or does not succeed to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan.

The discussion in this paper is based on findings from primary and secondary data. The primary sources of the data include semi-structured interviews with key anti-corruption officials at the HOO. The secondary sources of the data include academic publications and reliable grey literature from prominent governmental and non-governmental organisations. The development of this paper was made possible with support from a number of people to whom I am indebted. I am particularly grateful to my academic supervisor Robin Luckham for his invaluable support during my dissertation research. I have always found Mr Luckham’s feedback helpful. I am also thankful to the MA Governance and Development Convener Miguel Loureiro for planning this course and looking after us during our master’s studies at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). Similarly, I would like to thank the professors, lecturers and my class fellows in IDS for the productive and stimulating academic discussions and their collaboration. Also, I am grateful to the anti-corruption officials in the HOO for participating in my research interviews and sharing their inputs on corruption and anti-corruption situation in Afghanistan.

Last but not the least; I would like to extend my special thanks to my parents and family members for their constant support, assurance and motivation when I was away from home. It would certainly not have been possible to complete my academic course without their help. Likewise, I would like to thank Mohammad Nasib - the Chairman of the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan (WADAN) - for his assistance in this academic fulfilment.

Thank you.

This dissertation discusses the contextual and historical trends of corruption, its major drivers as well as the Afghan anti-corruption framework in the post-Taliban era. It specifically analyzes whether and how in practice the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOO) - as an anti-corruption tool - succeed or does not succeed to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan. The paper explores the HOO’s operational structure, various dimensions of its anti-corruption approach as well it identifies some major designing and implementation flaws. The paper also aims to draw on some successful lessons learned from the anti-corruption commission in Indonesia and how Afghanistan could learn from it to foster the effectiveness of its anti- corruption campaign.

The findings of this study could be of importance to a broad range of stakeholders. In addition to the Afghan State, the outcome of this study could also be of particular interest for anticorruption policy makers and donor institutions in their efforts to formulate effective anticorruption strategies and reforms in other countries.

‘Despite the fact we now have an apparently democratic state in Afghanistan, the occurrence of corruption is much more frequent and on a larger scale than ever before’

‘A Focus Group Discussion Participant’ In: Integrity Watch Afghanistan, (2007) ‘Afghan’s Experience of Corruption’

1. Introduction

Despite some considerable developmental progress with assistance from the international community, Afghanistan is reported as one of the most corrupt countries in the world since 2001 (Savage et al, 2007, Transparency International, 2016). The current institutionalisation of prevalent corruption evolved over time in Afghanistan and got severe in the last almost two decades. This marked corruption soaring to levels not seen in the previous Afghan administrations which can risk undermining the legitimacy of the government in Afghanistan (Torabi and Delesgues, 2007).

Pervasive, entrenched, and systemic corruption is now at an unprecedented scope in the country’s history (Leonardo and Robertson 2009). Several underlying factors underpin this endemic corruption in Afghanistan. Some of these include the protracted armed violent conflict which has weakened the fragile state institutions, the social fabric as well as the opium economy based on illicit production and smuggling of narcotics and tremendous international aid flow and contract funding that has contributed to an aid-dependent rentier state in Afghanistan (Mohseni, nd; USAID, 2009).

In addition, I argue that there is a strong vicious interrelation between these underlying factors. For instance, insecurity and violent armed conflict could lead to the weakening of a strong and capable national state. Similarly, the illicit economy based on opium production and smuggling could cause the emergence of transnational organised crimes. These could further jointly contribute to the fragility and failure of state institutions, encouragement of patronage relationships, impoverishment of the state of rule of law, institutionalisation of corruption and further promotion of the state dependence on foreign aid (Galtung, 2005, Mohseni, nd).

When the level of corruption increased in the post-Taliban era, the international community expressed concern and stressed on the strong commitment of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) to combat corruption in its state institutions (UNDP, 2012).

To this end, the GoIRA in line with the Afghan national constitution4 and the United Nations Convention against Administrative Corruption (UNCAC)5 established the HOO in July 2008 based on a presidential decree by President Hamid Karzai at that time. The HOO was mandated to coordinate and supervise the implementation of the Afghan anti-corruption framework and act as the focal point for overseeing policy development and implementation of anti-corruption strategies (CFC, 2012). The HOO apparently represented a holistic anti-corruption model based on the principles of public education, corruption prevention, complaint registration, corruption detection, investigation and panel sanction (Mohseni, nd).

In this paper, I aim to evaluate whether and how in practice the HOO succeeds or does not succeed to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all anti-corruption model in different contexts, I will also draw some lessons learned from the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK)6 in Indonesia. The reason I chose Indonesia is that there are some arguable contextual similarities between Afghanistan and Indonesia. For instance, both countries are governed by central unitary governments and were ruled by authoritarian and communist regimes in the past. They have also experienced military conflicts with large-scale killings albeit Indonesia is not now in armed conflict. Moreover, both these countries have also received international interventions in their state-building processes. For example, the post- Taliban government in Afghanistan and the new order administration in Indonesia were backed by the United States of America (USA). Both of these two countries conducted their first presidential elections in 2004 and since then ruled by democratically elected unitary states. Moreover, Afghanistan and Indonesia are homes to multiple ethnical groups and dominated by Muslims. In the same vein, the current deeply embedded corruption in the Afghan state fabric was also once noticed in Indonesia (Arifianto, nd).

The outline of the rest of this paper is as following. Section two will highlight the research methodology I will employ to develop this paper. Section three will focus on the literature review; discuss some contemporary anti-corruption frameworks and critics of these approaches. Section four will highlight the corruption and anti-corruption context in Afghanistan. Section five will elaborate on the conceptual framework I will apply in appraising the current anti- corruption framework in Afghanistan. Section seven will summarise the discussion and make some policy recommendations. Finally, the last section will conclude that the HOO was not successful to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan because a) the underlying structural factors of corruption are so complex and multifaceted in Afghanistan to be easily tackled and b) there were some designing and implementation flaws in the conceptualization and operationalization of the HOO.

2. Research Methodology

To answer and explore the breadth and in more depth the multiple aspects of my research question, I employed a systematic way of using a mixed method approach comprising of primary and secondary sources of information as well as qualitative and quantitative data. The primary sources of my research included semi-structured interviews with five senior anti-corruption officials in Kabul. They formed the key informants of my dissertation research project. These belonged to the A) Chief of Staff, B) Public Relations, C) Corruption Prevention, D) Complaint Management, E) Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Departments of the HOO. The sampling technique I used for selecting the interviewees was purposive because those identified were the key anti-corruption officials and had the all the relevant information about the anticorruption framework in Afghanistan.

The primary data collection was an integral part of my research. Before the start of any interview, I explained in details objective and use of the information collected. I assured all the interviews that the information provided will be dealt with strict confidentiality, and their identities will be kept anonymous. The interviews proceeded with participants who have given their consent in writing.

The secondary sources of my research included an extensive review of the academic and grey literature from reliable governmental and non-governmental institutions. Some of these materials included academic articles, journals, chapters in the books as well as organisational reports, public surveys, anti-corruption plans and policies among others.

Furthermore, I also used my contacts and extensive empirical experience of developmental work in Afghanistan. I particularly used my experience of working in collaboration with the HOO in Kabul - under the management of Anti-Corruption Exchange Program (ACEP)7 in Afghanistan. I understand that application of my personal contacts with officials at HOO might be partially interpreted as biassed. However, Afghan social contextual contract appreciates maintaining social relations. It was in this sense that my previous working relations with the officials from HOO resulted in an increased trust of these officials with me. In light of this, some of these officials very openly discussed with me the contemporary anti-corruption approaches and their effectiveness in Afghanistan. In order to further increase the trust and facilitate more open discussion with the targeted officials in the process of my primary data collection, I assured the interviewees of the anonymity of the process and employed an interactive approach and follow up questions in accordance with the Afghan code of conduct. This significantly reduced the partial initial willingness among some of the interviewees to claim HOO’s success. In brief, this methodological approach helped me to determine whether the HOO was or was not successful to mitigate the endemic corruption in Afghanistan. The research helped me to identify the data gaps and how to fill them.

Despite all this, there were some challenges that I encountered during the conduction of my primary research. First, time limitation was an issue as my research coincided with the month of Ramadan8. Second, security checks and traffic congestion were the other issues. Third, the HOO’s Policy and Planning Department was not collaborative. Apparently, this reflected a lack of this department’s compliance to the instruction of HOO’s leadership to collaborate in this research. I overcame these challenges through the adoption of a proper planning and closer coordination with the HOO’s Chief of Staff Office.

To conclude, I think overall my research methodology was inclusive and comprehensive. It covered a wide variety of aspects related to my dissertation research question that made my research an interesting discourse. My research methods helped me a lot in collecting the relevant information. It gave me an overall insight into the causes and effects as well as about the various dimensions of the Afghan anti-corruption framework. It helped in building trust and collecting the consistent information from the interview respondents.

3. Literature Review

To explain the concept of corruption, it is first critical to define what actually corruption is. The existing literature indicates that there is no comprehensive and universally accepted definition of corruption (UNODC, 2004, USIP, 2010). Different organisations and scholars have defined corruption in different ways - each lacking in some aspect (Tanzi, 1998). For instance, Robert Klitgaard (1998) has formed a mathematical equation for corruption which is C=M+D-A where C is corruption, M is a monopoly, D is discretion and A is accountability. Thus, the monopoly of power, when combined with discretion and a lesser degree of accountability results in the emergence of corruption in his view, but it still does not show what corruption actually is. The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) define corruption as ‘the misuse or the abuse of public office for private gain’ (cited in APEC, 2006). In light of this definition, corruption can happen in several forms of illicit behaviour such as bribery, extortion, fraud, nepotism, graft, theft, embezzlement and etcetera, however, it excludes the corruption in the private sector. Moreover, TI (2016) defines corruption as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’. This is a broad definition and it includes corruption in different forms in both the public and private sectors. My use of the term ‘corruption’ in this paper implies the last definition.

There is a wide variety of literature that discusses various anti-corruption approaches for mitigation of corruption in the contemporary world (Mungiu-Pippidi, 2006; Kolstad and Wiig, 2009; Johnsøn, 2012; Larmour, 2007). The nature of corruption in the developing and developed countries is different from each other. For instance, Mungiu-Pippidi (2006) highlights that there are two main streams when analysing corruption. The first stream argues that corruption reflects fundamental differences in values and attitudes of the people to the provision of public services which are closely linked to the patronage system and infringement of the norm of integrity. The second observes corruption as a rational profit-seeking behaviour in contexts in which there are strong incentives for ‘corrupt’ behaviours and large rents to be captured - especially in rentier states - such as Afghanistan or where there are substantial profits to be made from the natural resources, drugs or aid disbursement. In other words and as Persson et al (2013) suggests, the second stream can lead us to suspect that corruption is not the exception to the rule, but the rule.

Therefore, a mere copying of certain anti-corruption frameworks from the developed world for application in the developing countries will not help (McCusker, 2006). Addressing corruption in these in each of these different situations requires a careful conceptualization and formulation of anti-corruption frameworks. I presume in the first situation, setting up explicit anti-corruption initiatives combined with a wider array of measures to neutralise the major incentives that sustain corruption and patronage systems could be useful. However, in the later, direct anti- corruption measures are likely to be ‘counter-productive’ and setting up explicit anti-corruption programs would probably result in the emergence of another level of corrupt officials under the name of anti-corruption offices (Huther and Shah, 2000; Persson et al, 2013).

3.1. Contemporary Anti-Corruption Frameworks

Corruption is very complex and curbing this phenomenon requires a systematic, endogenous and holistic approach. Also, there is no one-size-fits-all anti-corruption program, model or approach to mitigate this phenomenon in different contexts (UNODC, nd; U4, nd; McCusker, 2006). Thus, the contemporary anti-corruption literature suggests different types of anti-corruption interventions. These interventions have to be tailored to the local contexts and adjusted to the local major structural factors and drivers of corruption (Johnsøn, 2012, Jacobs and Wagner, 2007). Some of such contemporarily practised frameworks - with varying levels of viability in different contexts - are as following:

3.1.1. Public Sector Reform:

Improving reforms typically focuses on two issues: Public Sector Reform (PSR), and Public Finance Management (PFM) (Disch et al, 2009; Johnsøn et al, 2012). Johnsøn et al, (2012) highlight PSR a viable corruption prevention measure where it aims to protect public funds from theft and fraud, public office from nepotism and favouritism, and public institutions from capture by elites. However, Johnsøn et al, (2012) argue that PFM could be influential in tax administration, revenue services, audit institutions, and procurement authorities. Research findings underline PFM as the strongest and most effective reform approach to mitigation of corruption in the public sector particularly in situations of pervasive and institutionalised corruption but PSR has been referred to as a more mixed framework in terms of its efficiency (Johnsøn et al, 2012; Disch et al, 2009).

3.1.2. Civil Society Organisations:

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play a key role in fighting corruption (OECD, 2003). CSOs like TI and others have been central to exposing corruption, advocating legal changes to fight corruption, and pushing for greater accountability in governments and businesses to prevent corruption (Johnsøn et al, 2012). Thus, Mungiu-Pippidi, (2006) highlights that CSOs are more effective and credible auditors. Thus, they might be helpful to combat corruption until the state becomes mature enough to take over the full fight against corruption.

3.1.3. Oversight Institutions:

Oversight institutions, such as supreme audit institutions, parliament, and ombudsman offices are non-executive bodies that have the mandate to ensure horizontal accountability of the executives (Johnsøn et al, 2012). The oversight institutions could have an effective role in reducing corruption if they are clean themselves. Thus, these institutions can—in theory and in practice— contribute to greater accountability of public officials to the people on whose behalf they govern [in democratic setups] (Jenkin cited in: Shah, 2007).

3.1.4. Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs):

For many years, the establishment of specialised ACAs has widely been considered as one of the most important national initiatives necessary to effectively tackle corruption (UNDP, 2011). In this vein, some of the recent literature highlights well-financed and independent ACA as a strong weapon in the fight against corruption where state institutions are functional but vulnerable to corruption (TI, 2014). The relevant successful models of this framework include the Hong Kong Anti-Corruption Commission, Singapore Anti-Corruption Commission, and more recently the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission.

3.2. Critics of the Contemporary Anti-Corruption Frameworks

There are some important critiques against the aforementioned anti-corruption frameworks. Since corruption is a multifaceted phenomenon (OECD, 2008), analysis of corruption requires a multi-dimensional lens in a given context. Thus, a successful fight against corruption could not simply be limited to a single approach, but it rather requires a comprehensive package of interventions addressing the main drivers of corruption in a given context based on a holistic approach (UNECA, 2008).

While PSR is useful, it is not an overall solution, albeit it is a prerequisite for controlling corruption (World Bank, nd). Despite the fact that the oversight institutions can have their influential role to mitigate corruption, in a situation where corruption is socio-politically deeply embedded in the state structures - as in Afghanistan (Dawson, 2014) - the officials and politicians can rather easily manipulate the oversight authorities for personal gains. Survey findings indicate oversight institutions as the most corrupt in Afghanistan (IWA, 2014). Johnsøn et al (2012) also find that oversight institutions have proven weak in situations of institutionalised corruption to mitigate this phenomenon because these do not have the law enforcement authority. Similarly, the fight against corruption cannot simply be limited to either the civil society or the state. Thus, the civil society organisations alone cannot reduce corruption, but it requires a strong sate-society partnership (IFC, 2006) and a strong political will in the state (UNODC, 1999) as otherwise it might fail to produce results.

Lastly, few success stories can be identified from the literature when it comes to the impact of ACAs (Disch et al, 2009). The literature indicates that in the last several years, ACAs have been adopted by numerous governments despite a mounting body of the evidence that they have most often failed to reduce corruption (Heilbrunn, 2004). Thus, the establishment of an ACA does not in itself mitigate corruption unless combined with a wider array of measures to neutralise the strong deep-rooted incentives for ‘corrupt’ behaviours. Johnsøn (2012) highlights these measures as the ‘public education’, ‘corruption prevention’ and ‘law enforcement’ authorities of the specialised, independent and well-functioning ACAs.

4. Context of Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan

Corruption is a notorious, multifaceted and complex phenomenon in the context of Afghanistan. According to a recent public opinion survey9, corruption is the second biggest problems in Afghanistan after insecurity (IWA, 2014). This concern is rooted in the prevalence and pervasiveness of corruption in the country. For details please see figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The Biggest Problems in Afghanistan

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Source: Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 2014

The current level of corruption in Afghanistan does not have a matching in its history. The majority of the Afghans believe that the current pervasive, entrenched, and institutionalised corruption in the Afghan State fabric is unprecedented in the Afghanistan’s history (Leonardo and Robertson 2009). In an interview at the HOO, a senior anti-corruption official said:

‘Corruption did not exist in the past to the extent it is present now in the state institutions. In the past, it was considered a shameful act. However, it is currently so common that the corrupt practices are committed in public with no shame’.

(A respondent of a semi-structured interview at HOO)

Please see the figure 2 below for some trends on the generalisation of corruption in Afghanistan during different historical periods.

Figure 2: Historical Scope of Corruption in Afghanistan (Source: Author’s Analysis)

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According to the Asia Foundation’s public-opinion-survey in 2011, the HOO’s fight against corruption was ineffective and the public perception indicated an increase in the level of corruption in Afghanistan in comparison to the previous years (Torabi, 2012). TI’s CPI also suggests a pervasive increase in the generalisation of corruption in Afghanistan since 2005 although it is somewhat subject and open to different interpretations. The TI CPI for 2015 ranked Afghanistan the third most corrupt country after Somalia and North Korea in the world. See the figure 4 below.

Figure 4: Afghanistan’s ranking in CPI (Transparency International, 2016)

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During my interviews with some senior anti-corruption officials at the HOO, they highlighted weak state institutions, lack of political will, ambiguity in the laws, prevailing patronage relationships, ethnical politics, parallelization of similar institutions, overlap between these bodies, tremendous and uncoordinated aid flow to the country as well as armed conflict and narcotics cultivation and smuggling as some major drivers of corruption in Afghanistan.

They elaborated that the state jurisdiction is geographically limited due to armed insurgency in the country and the GoIRA does not have the capacity and the systems required to equally implement the rule of law on its citizens. The corrupt politician, officials and those closely affiliated with these individuals are exempted from the laws and those with no political influence are easily troubled by the government (Leonardo and Robertson, 2009). Despite the apparent anti-corruption determination of the Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, an anticorruption official at the HOO expressed doubt about the capability and political will of the GoIRA to be able to overcome the existing prevalent corruption.

Moreover, Afghans realised corruption as a widespread underlying phenomenon in all the state institutions in Afghanistan. Integrity Watch Afghanistan (2014) identifies the Afghan judiciary system as the first and most corrupt state institution in the country. This discovery is disgusting, striking and unappealing since this situation can seriously undermine the law enforcement authority of the state. For details on findings of this survey, please see figure 5 below.

Figure 5: The Most Corrupt Public Institutions in Afghanistan

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Source: Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 2014

Ambiguity in the laws is the other main driver of corruption in Afghanistan which can cause bureaucratic bureaucracy as well as complication of public service delivery processes and thus increasing vulnerability to corruption. The Afghan Anti-Corruption Law (AAL)10 does not have any specific definition of corruption in the context of Afghanistan - which an official at HOO highlighted as a severe issue - but it rather names eighteen different acts and crimes as some types of ‘administrative corruption’ without even defining them. These include:

1. Bribery

2. Embezzlement

3. Stealing of documents

4. Unauthorised destruction of officials records

5. Exceeding the limits of legal scope of authority

6. Misuse of duty power

7. Impeding the implementation of justice

8. Using government facilities and official work hours for personal affairs

9. Refusing and abstention to perform duty without legal justification

10. Concealing the truth

11. Illegal increase in assets

12. Forgery of documents

13. Misrepresentation of authority (falsely representing to have certain executive authorit y to grant or deny government approval)

14. Receiving any kind of gifts in order to perform or refrain from performing official actions

15. Delaying the execution of assigned duties

16. Violating the code of ethics of the related office

17. Involving ethnic, regional, religious, party, gender and personal consideration in performing the entrusted duties, and

18. Acting or refusing to act in violation of provisions stipulated in the anti-corruption strategy.

Furthermore, client-patron relations and ethnical politics also foster the intensification of corruption in Afghanistan (Shahran, nd). The respondents admitted that the recruitment system in GoIRA was not de facto transparent and competitive. For instance, most of the recruitments in the civil services are done based on personal relations. The respondents added that in most of the cases incumbents for certain key positions are pre-identified at the expense of merit. Key positions and state departments are even divided between the leaders of the current National Unity Government (Bijlert, 2014).

The respondents also mentioned tremendous aid flow in the last one and half decade to Afghanistan and the lack of coordination in its disbursement as another key factor behind the escalation of the corruption level in Afghanistan. The relationships of some dual citizenship technocrats with the international agencies and sub-contractual arrangements in the procurement processes and their exemption from the GoIRA tax were pointed out as some incentives to individual accumulation and the promotion of corruption in Afghanistan. As an aid-dependent rentier state, Afghanistan received a massive amount of financial aid in the form of international assistance since 2001(World Bank, 2012). Approximately 70 billion dollars in the form of foreign aid has been poured into Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010 to develop the country and strengthen governance structures (Baron and Stripes, 2011). However, Basar (2012) finds that the large aid flows to Afghanistan have inadvertently helped to fuel corruption; large amounts of money have reportedly been spent so quickly as to prevent adequate anti-corruption, transparency and accountability controls and safeguards. Thus, this helped in the creation of an extreme version of a rentier state in Afghanistan (Shuhrke, 2011) because the institutionalised patronage relationships, weak capacity of the state, and its lack of vertical and horizontal accountabilities, simply turned the foreign aid into a resource curse in this country.

Similarly, the respondents of my interviews pointed out that many of the largest contracts for construction, transportation, the supply of fuel, and control of natural resources have been awarded or sub-contracted to powerful groups through de facto non-competitive basis. The Afghan police and court system are also part of the problem because they are corrupt themselves or at least have no power to punish powerful corrupt individuals who have stolen from the State (USIP, 2010).

A research by IWA (2007) indicates that non-governmental organisations are also part of corruption in Afghanistan because these often deal with large amounts of money and they subcontract projects/contracts to private entrepreneurs, such as construction companies among others. The same research reports that corruption in construction firms takes place in a hidden manner, but with visible damaging consequences, such as the collapse of a school after one year of its construction, because of the low quality of the material used in construction work. One of the simple examples of this kind concerns the USA construction company, Louis Berger. Under USAID’s ‘Accelerating Success Initiative’, the firm reportedly built and renovated 533 schools and clinics at a cost of 226,000 United States Dollars (USD) each (USGAO, 2005). According to Duparq (2006), this construction could have been done at just 50,000 USD per building. This indicates a financial misuse of 176,000 USD per renovated school/clinic which comes to a grand total of 176,000 x 533 = 93,808,000 USD in this project only. Hence, many of these buildings were later damaged during the winter because of design flaws (Nawa, 2006).

Moreover, the respondents emphasised that narcotics cultivation, trade and smuggling is directly contributing to the institutionalisation of corruption and promotion of insecurity in the country. In most of the cases, the narcotic smugglers are members of armed groups who have influential dominance in the country. The income from the opium is promoting illicit economy, armed insurgency and corrupting the government officials who instead of upholding the rule of law, work for undermining the rule of law.

Last but not the least, armed conflict and insecurity in the country discourage the institutionalisation of good governance, accountability, transparency and responsiveness in the state institutions leading to increased corruption. Thus, corruption has become a system, through networks of corrupt practices and people that reach across the whole of government to subvert governance in Afghanistan (Cordesman and Burke, 2010). Particularly, these networks strive that the guilty from their groups are not brought to justice; often the officials and agencies that are supposed to be part of the anti-corruption effort are instead introduced a critical part of the corruption syndrome (Leonardo and Robertson, 2009). The warlords use their dominance largely for private or small group gains and effectively block the reform in the state institutions (IWA, 2007). They further undermine the efforts of the central government to strengthen its authority and legitimacy (Savage et al, 2007). Thus, the government apparently is not capable of prosecuting these people as it could further increase the conflict and contribute to further limitation of the state jurisdiction in parts of the country.

As the drivers of corruption are diverse, the context of anti-corruption in Afghanistan is also complex and awkward. Now, there are multiple state institutions in the country that have either full or partial the so-called mandate to fight corruption in Afghanistan. These include the HOO, Ministry of Interior (MoI), National Directorate of Security (NDS), and Supreme Audit Office (SAO). A respondent during my interview said that there were obvious working overlaps and lack of coordination between these institutions. He called it ‘parallelization of anti-corruption institutions’ and pointed it out as an inconsistent approach. Among these institutions, HOO is in principle the lead anti-corruption body mandated to supervise the implementation of the AAL. I will explain HOO in section six.

5. Framework for Evaluating the Anti-Corruption Approach in Afghanistan

As discussed in section three, there are a number of anti-corruption frameworks and each has certain limitations attached to them. Despite the fact ACA is not the best option to fight corruption in a situation prevalent and institutionalised corruption- like that in Afghanistan, the GoIRA has chosen the HOO as an effective measure to fight corruption in this country. Thus, I pick to discuss the role of this body to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan.

The success of some of the ACAs in parts of the world is underpinned by the importance of the holistic three-pronged anti-corruption approach focused on public awareness, corruption prevention and law enforcement dimensions of the anti-corruption strategies which Johnsøn (2012) has analysed. This will provide an overall framework against which I will also appraise the HOO’s effectiveness to combat corruption in Afghanistan. Taking into consideration the complexity of corruption and its interwoven scope with multidimensional underlying factors, the fight against corruption in Afghanistan requires a holistic and robust approach. To make this possible, the anti-corruption framework should, in addition to public education and corruption prevention components, have strong law enforcement authority. It must also be combined with a wider array of measures to neutralise the major incentives that sustain corruption and patronage systems. The public education component could help in building the awareness of the citizens and civil society organisations to collaborate in this effort and report the corrupt cases to the HOO. The corruption prevention component could help to reduce the vulnerability to corruption in various laws and procedures of the public service delivery processes. The law enforcement component could bring the corrupt officials and individuals to the courts for justice. However, a precondition to the fulfilment of this expectation is the independence and cleanliness of the judiciary from corruption or establishment of a dedicated and well-functioning anti-corruption court under the HOO in Afghanistan. This way, the proposed approach will help to reduce the level of corruption as it will make this phenomenon a more high-risk and low-reward activity to embark on.

This three-pronged approach has produced positive results in parts of the world such as Hong Kong, Singapore and recently in Indonesia (Kuris, 2014). However, Hong Kong and Singapore are unusual as they already have very strong and effective state structures and bureaucracies. I will use some lessons learned from the Indonesian successful anti-corruption framework because Indonesia has some arguable similarities with Afghanistan. The Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) was designed with insights from the Hong Kong Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) because of its comprehensive scope and powers (Bolongaita, 2010). The KPK even went further by embracing prosecutions as a primary function of this body (Goldfien, nd). Thus, the KPK focused more on its law enforcement authority than its other anti-corruption functions.

The law enforcement authority is, therefore, a key component of the fight against corruption. However, in Afghanistan, the high perceived corruption rating of the courts and law enforcement bodies is a huge problem that impedes the law enforcement practice. Since its establishment in 2003, the KPK has successfully convicted several corrupt cases leading to the imprisonment of high-ranking officials across different branches and agencies of the Indonesian government (Bolongaita, 2010). Please see the figure 6 below:

Figure 6: KPK Performance 2004 - 2008

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(Source: Bolongaita, 2010)

From 2004 to 2008 only the KPK successfully prosecuted over one hundred senior officials that before would have been considered as ‘untouchable’ for their positions and prominence (Bolongaita, 2010). After 2008, the KPK continued to focus on more ‘bigger fishes’. The KPK extended its reach and earned respect from citizens for going after members of many parties while showing no political bias towards them (Thomases, nd).

Lastly, I will assess if the HOO is successful as the KPK. The KPK can prosecute any corrupt politician or official, including members of parliament and judges in Indonesia. There is only one exception: the military. According to Bologaita (2010), the KPK can investigate, but it cannot prosecute, members of the military as these are prosecuted based on the military’s own law enforcement apparatus. I will appraise to see if the fight against corruption in Afghanistan could benefit from some experiences of the KPK.

6. High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan

When societies around the world respond to corruption outbreaks, the approach of choice increasingly is to establish an ACA (Meagher, 2005). Although the debate over ACA effectiveness is unsettled, the 2005 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) enshrine ACAs as a primary instrument in the global fight against corruption (Kuris, 2014). To tackle the institutionalised corruption in Afghanistan, the GoIRA in line with the stipulations of the Afghan Constitution11, the AAL12 and the article 6 of the UNCAC13 established the HOO in July 2008 through a presidential decree by the ex-President Hamid Karzai.

In this chapter, I will appraise the effectiveness of the HOO in undertaking its mission. I will describe the HOO’s structure, geographical presence, recruitment procedure, and functions. I will also analyse how it operates and carries out these functions. At the end, I will evaluate whether and how in practice it succeeds or does not succeed in making a tangible impact on the mitigation of corruption in Afghanistan.

6.1. HOO’s Structure

As a lead national anti-corruption institution, the HOO is in charge of overseeing and coordinating the implementation of the anti-corruption fight in Afghanistan (Mohseni, nd). The HOO is de jure an independent institution. However, de facto it reports to and functions under the overall guidance of the Afghan President’s Office. For details on the HOO’s administrative structure, please see the figure 7 below.

Figure 7: HOO’s Administrative Structure

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6.2. Recruitment Procedure

The recruitment procedure in the HOO is regulated in accordance with the law. According to the article 8 of the AAL, the Director General, who leads this body, should be appointed by the President. The Deputy Director Generals and other central and provincial technical and administrative staff of the HOO are appointed by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC)14 of Afghanistan. The IARCSC announces the vacant position, receives applications from potential applicants, and gives them tests. A committee finalists and should select the most suitable candidate for the vacant positions. In principle and as per the article 16 of the AAL, these incumbents should be qualified individuals and must meet the requirements of the civil service law. However, it is not always guaranteed in practice because the strong client-patron relations in the country can undermine this process. According to the HOO’s annual report of 2013, this organisation had a total of 495 staff members.

6.3. HOO’s Geographical Presence

The HOO has its headquarters based in Kabul. It also has five regional offices in the country which are located in Badakhshan, Balkh, Kunduz, Herat and Kandahar Provinces. However, it does not have a physical presence in the rest of Afghanistan’s 29 provinces. Please see the figure 8 below.

Figure 8: Afghanistan’s Map (Source: United Nations, 2011)

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6.4. HOO’s Functions:

The HOO pursues a quasi-three-pronged anti-corruption approach in Afghanistan. It includes the following three components: A) Public Awareness, B) Corruption Prevention, and C) Corruption Analysis and the Afghan Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation. As illustrated in figure 9 below, these three components are in theory interconnected to support the effectiveness of each other and run the anti-corruption machine in Afghanistan. Thus, in a well-coordinated and well- resourced ideal situation, this approach should lead to the eventual success of the proposed anticorruption approach in its overall effort to combat corruption in a given context. However, I will scrutinise in the remainder of this section whether, in reality, the HOO succeeds in turning this broad approach into practical policy instruments, which may have a real impact on mitigation of corruption in Afghanistan.

Figure 9: The Afghan Anti-Corruption Approach to Curbing Corruption in Afghanistan

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Source: Author’s Own Analysis

7. Evaluating HOO’s Functions

Under this section, I aim to evaluate the HOO’s anti-corruption approach through my interviews with the senior anti-corruption officials at the HOO. However, a minor limitation of this approach included an apparent likeliness of some of the respondents to claim the HOO’s successes, but it was overcome when I asked some follow up questions.

7.1. Public Awareness

As per my interview with a key official at the Public Relations Department (PRD) of the HOO, this department is mandated to create public awareness among the Afghan citizens on the disadvantages of corruption and how to avoid it. This department functions on the central level in Kabul only and it does not have any units to pursue its mandate on the provincial level in the country. An interview respondent said that the PRD has a total of eight personnel to achieve its ambitious goal in the whole of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the PRD was highly under-resourced and its personnel needed capacity building support.

In addition, the PRD used to receive some funding from some donor agencies in the past. However, the funding support has been seized since the last few years apparently due to the fact that the channelling of financial assistance to the HOO did not have any tangible impact in general. The PRD has two main units under its structure. These include A) Public Awareness Unit and B) Information and Publication Unit.

7.1.1. The Public Awareness Unit

The Public Awareness Unit aims to conduct public awareness campaigns in collaboration with some line ministries such as the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education, MoI, and the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC). In principle, the purpose of its campaigns was to inform the public about the disadvantages of corruption.

To attain this goal, the interviewee informed that the Public Awareness Unit of the HOO has conducted some public awareness campaigns about corruption through religious scholars and mosques in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. During the Friday prayer sermons, the religious scholars have explained corruption and its disadvantages from the religious point of view to the public. Each Friday prayer was attended by hundreds of the people depending on the location of the mosques. Thus, the audience of the public awareness campaigns through mosques and religious scholars could reach to thousands15 of people every month.

In addition and as per the information from the interviewee, this unit has also conducted several corruption awareness training to schools and educational facilities in various districts in the capital. This way, the unit has informed school students and teachers on the disadvantages of corruption and how to avoid it when faced. Similarly, the interviewee informed that under an agreement between the HOO and the Police Academy in Kabul, the Public Awareness Unit of the HOO has provided awareness creation training to the police personnel on the harms of corruption and how to combat it.

Under an agreement signed between the HOO and the MoIC, this unit ran the Shefafyat16 Program on the state television of Afghanistan for the last five years. This program was broadcasted once in a week with national coverage in the country. The HOO invited senior government officials such as the ministers, deputy ministers or heads of the key departments to the program to answer the questions of the citizens on issues related to corruption in the relevant institutions. According to the interview respondents, this program had a good impact on building public awareness about corruption. However, due to the shortage of funding in the HOO, the broadcasting of this program discontinued in 2014.

7.1.2. The Information and Publication Unit

Through its Information and Publication Unit, the PRD has conducted some media conferences to cover issues related to corruption in Afghanistan and has published some magazines, brochures, posters and small stickers on anti-corruption in the last several years. However, these activities have stopped since 2015 mainly due to the lack of financial resources in this department. In sum, the public awareness function of the HOO has been inadequately resourced and has not had much impact on the change in public attitudes towards corruption. An interview respondent said that the PRD even did not have enough financial resources to procure office stationary and pay transportation cost to its personnel for performing their public awareness campaigns.

In contrast, the Indonesian KPK has put more resources into its public awareness activities. According to Thomas (nd), the KPK has a dedicated TV channel that carries everything from talk shows to news and to animated children’s programming - all carrying anti-corruption messages17. In addition, it also has a radio station and a Twitter account (Indonesia launches) with a million followers. It has also reached to the students in the Indonesian schools and universities to pass on the anti-corruption values and published messages. The KPK has even gone beyond. It has launched public campaigns - in regards to the national elections in this country - asking the voters to take candidates backgrounds into account while casting their votes in favour of any candidate (Jeffery, 2014 cited in Thomas, nd).

7.2. Corruption Prevention

Corruption prevention could be another very important function of an ACA to curb corruption. The Corruption Prevention Department (CPD) of the HOO is mandated to attain this goal through simplification of public service delivery processes and law analysis from vulnerability to corruption point of view in the country. In principle and according to a senior anti-corruption official, simplification of public service delivery process is expected to have more significant impacts on corruption mitigation than most other anti-corruption measures. However, in practice, this department has to overcome those who want to resist and benefit from complex procedures and delays in certain public services.

This department has a total of thirty personnel who according to the respondent of my interview do not have sufficient skills in undertaking their assignments or have been appointed based on their personal relations. However, this department seems to have partially contributed to the attainment of the following achievements so far.

7.2.1. Simplification of Public Service Delivery Processes

A respondent of the interview highlighted that bureaucratic bureaucracy and complexity in the public service delivery processes is a key factor to the emergence of corruption. Each government institution has had its own complex and time-consuming system of delivering the public services in Afghanistan which were prone to corruption. These have been more central, old-fashioned, and manual rather than reformed and electronic. For instance, when a citizen needed to obtain a driving license, the process could take approximately 2-3 months. Similarly, provision of approval by the Kabul Municipality to the construction of a multi-story building required undergoing a total of 659 administrative steps which was taking around three years time for processing. Reportedly, the HOO’s intervention through the simplification of public service delivery processes significantly helped in the reduction of this complexity and the vulnerability to corruption. For instance, according to my interview respondent, obtaining a driving license now takes a total of three working days and obtaining an approval from the Kabul Municipality for the construction of a multi-story building requires undergoing a total of 11 administrative steps.

According to the interview finding, this department has reviewed and simplified a total of 83 public service delivery processes in the state institutions in Afghanistan since the HOO’s establishment. For details, please see the figure 10 below:

Figure 10: List of Simplified Public Service Delivery Processes in the Afghan State Institutions

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Some specific examples of these services include obtaining a passport, national identity card, driving license, vehicle registration plate, distribution of school graduation certificates, as well as tax and revenue collection among several others. In order to give awareness to the citizens on how to use the simplified procedures, this department also prepared simple and specific instructions in the local languages and fixed them on the walls in the relevant public service offices. The instructions also include a contact number from the HOO in the case of violation by the designated officers of the institution under question.

The HOO used to reportedly perform oversight and periodically supervise the delivery of the public services to ensure whether the newly introduced and simplified procedures were adapted. Despite all these efforts, at times compliance by some state officials with the simplified procedures was reported as a challenge in some state institutions. For instance, an interview respondent said there was no compliance of the Traffics Department with the simplified procedures as there were still long ques of citizens who had to spend weeks to obtain driving licenses. The apparent rationale behind the officials’ no compliance with the introduced procedures was the profit-seeking rational and incentive for personal accumulation through abuse of the entrusted power in the state institutions.

7.2.2. Legal Review

A respondent during an interview informed that majority of the established laws in Afghanistan belong to the old ages which do not fully comply with the current contextual realities in Afghanistan. The respondents emphasised these could increase vulnerability to corruption in the state institutions. As part of its mandate, the CPD reportedly reviews these laws, identifies the potential of corruption vulnerability and suggests appropriate changes and presents them to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for consideration. After the suggestions have been officially submitted for modification, it is then at the MoJ’s discretion if it would agree with the suggested adjustments and officially process them because the MoJ is not legally fully bound to accept any suggestion by the HOO or other line institutions in regards to the legal amendments.

As per the information from the interview respondents, the CPD has so far reportedly reviewed a total of eleven different sectoral laws and a total of eight Moqararas18 in Afghanistan. However, there was not any concrete indication if this review was useful in practice and whether these had achieved any positive results on the ground. For details, please see the figure 11 below.

Figure 11: Number of Reviewed Sectoral Laws and Muqararas

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Nevertheless, in the Indonesian KPK corruption prevention is an important complementary function which is conditional to the success of this institution (ISS, 2012). In an interview, KPK’s Commissioner Amien Sunaryadi said:

‘If you only understand prevention and are not equipped to investigate, it’s nothing. If you only understand investigation and don’t know prevention, you won’t be able to move forward’. (Cited in: ISS, 2012, p.16).

Thus, the KPK has conducted extensive corruption prevention activities since its establishment in 2003 and has recovered substantial stolen state assets from corrupt officials.

7.3. Law Enforcement

The third but the most important function of the HOO is corruption analysis and the Afghan anti- corruption strategy implementation. This function is handled in two different phases in Afghanistan: administrative and judicial. The administrative phase is pursued by the HOO. However, the judicial phase is the responsibility of the judiciary institutions. Hence, I found during my research that the HOO does not have a de facto ‘law enforcement and prosecution’ authority as the KPK has in Indonesia. It is in this vein that the HOO can collect the corruption cases, review and file them administratively only and eventually forward the corruption cases to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) for investigation and then to the State Courts for prosecution. It worth mentioning that prosecution of corruption is at the total discretion of the judiciary system and the willingness of the state leadership in Afghanistan to prosecute or not to prosecute the corrupt people. The HOO does not have any direct influence on this judiciary process. For details, please see the figure 12 below which shows how in principle the law enforcement works in Afghanistan.

Figure 12: Afghan Anti-Corruption Approach (Source: Author’s Analysis)

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As shown in the figure above, the Afghan law enforcement anti-corruption approach is as following.

7.3.1. Complaint Management Department

The HOO’s Complaint Management Department (CMD) has the duty to register the corruption complaints, gather the required documents and forward them to the Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department for next steps. In principle, CMD is the entry point in the HOO for the identification and detection of corruption cases19. This department uses different methods to receive complaints and information on the corruption cases in Afghanistan. These include the followings.

A. Direct Complaint Registration

If faced with corruption in the state institutions, the citizens can come straight to the CMD in Kabul or its regional offices in the country to register their complaints. The complaint should be related to one of the eighteen types of the administrative corruption mentioned in the AAL. The written complaint should also have a signature or thumb print of the applicant on it. However, this has an implication of the reporting as identity of the person making the complaint could be disclosed. Nevertheless, a respondent during the fieldwork interview emphasised that the HOO strives to maintain the confidentiality of the applicant. After the complaint is officially registered, the officials in the CMD review the case. In order to administratively complete the complaint file and support this case, the CMD may ask the applicant for some more details or evidence in relation to the complaint if any.

B. Complaint Boxes

For the sake of ease of the citizens, the HOO has also reportedly fixed complaint boxes in various public service institutions in the country. If a citizen witnesses any incidence of corruption or is asked to pay a bribe, he/she can put the complaint in one of these boxes. This way the CMD receives corruption complaints from the citizens. According to the interviewee, the CMD should check the compliant boxes on a periodic basis. After a complaint is received, the department reviews and processes the case as per its procedures.

C. Telephone Hotline

The CMD has also allocated specific telephone numbers for the registration of the corruption cases in the country. The complaint registration hotline numbers are 0093705242424 and 0093705242425. The citizens can register their complaints with CMD on all official days from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. While calling this number, the citizens are asked to share full details of the complaint, provide evidence (if any). The callers are also asked to share their contact details and address in case a follow up on the complaint is required which the complaint makers could possibly find inconvenient.

D. E-Mail

The other way through which the citizens can register their complaints with the CMD is to send an e-mail to this department if they have witnessed an incidence of corruption or been asked to pay a bribe. The complaints could be sent to the Reportedly, the HOO checks this e-mail account on a daily basis and reviews the corruption cases arrived at this point.

At times, some citizens may also send their complaints through the post to the HOO. My interview respondent said these and all the other cases are reviewed on a timely basis in the CMD. Depending on the nature of the complaint registered, the cases could be processed and forwarded to the Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department at different time intervals. For instance, according to the interviewee, few of the complaint cases are processed in a week time; others require two or more weeks to be processed and forwarded for next steps.

A respondent during the interview said that the CMD receives on average around a total of thirty complaints on a daily basis. As per the interview respondent, these complaints included different forms of corrupt practices including incidences of petty corruption. According to the HOO’s 2013 Annual Report, this organisation has received a total of 1,051 complaints out of which 637 have been reportedly processed. However, the report does not indicate the reasons why the others were not processed. For details, please see the figure 13 below.

Figure 13: Number of Complaints Reported to the HOO in 2013 (Source: HOO, Annual Report 2013)

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Moreover, the interview respondent at the HOO said that they also had some challenges while processing the corruption complaints. Some of these challenges included the following. First, the HOO does not have functional offices in all the provinces. Thus, it was difficult for the citizens in the rural areas or the majority of the provinces where there was no HOO’s field office to register their complaints. Second, due to the higher level of illiteracy in the country, the majority of the people are not familiar with the use of information technology to use the e-mail or how to register their cases. Third, processing certain corruption complaints might require more time as complaints at times do not cover all the necessary information about the reported corruption cases. Thus, the HOO sometimes feel in need to follow with the complaint maker on details of the case and ask for some more information concerning the reported case. This at times also causes a fear among the complaint makers to register their cases with the HOO as they could find this process time consuming and they are not in favor of exposing to other possibilities of potential trouble. This could also interrupt the citizen’s personal businesses and cause them financial lose if they have to follow quite often with the anti-corruption officials. They prefer a quick action. Fourth, lack of resources is another problem that hinders timely processing of the corruption complaints in the HOO and can cause possible delays. Fifth, some senior officials support those involved in the corruption because they have closed ethnical and/or client-patron relations with them. This can hinder the CMD’s actions. Consequently and at times, this can make the complaint makers less eager to trust approaching the HOO to register their complaints. All these factors pose serious challenges to the CMD to perform to the satisfaction of the citizens.

On the top of this, there is some overlap between the jurisdictions of the HOO, MOI and AGO. For instance, from a legal point of view, MOI has the authorization to identify the criminal and corruption cases in the country. The AGO has the responsibility to investigate these cases and the Courts have the potential power to prosecute corruption cases. This leaves less space for the HOO to play its ideal role. A respondent from the HOO suggested that it would have been useful if the identification, investigation and prosecution of corruption could have been put under the mandate of the HOO which requires amendment in the Afghan laws.

7.3.2. Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department

The Corruption Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department of the HOO has two major responsibilities to undertake. First, it is responsible for analysing vulnerability to corruption in the state institutions’ plans and strategies in regards to the A) recruitment of officials, B) disbursement of the allocated annual budgets and C) reforming measures related to corruption prevention on institutional levels. Second, it also reportedly ensures implementation of the AAL through collection of documents and information against the corruption cases submitted by the CMD and its referral to the judicial institutions for the so- called ultimate prosecution.

Under the first responsibility, this department has focal points in each ministry and independent state institution on a central level only. The focal points in each of these institutions represent the HOO and oversee the performance of the host institutions. They analyse the relevant strategies and plans of these institutions and share them with the Case Analysis and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Implementation Department of the HOO for further analysis. This department thoroughly reviews these documents and identifies areas that are potentially vulnerable to corruption and gives suggestions to the relevant institutions on how to mitigate the identified risks. However, the capacity required to fulfil this expectation is yet needed. Also, there was no tangible impact of this exercise noted.

Under the second responsibility, this department reportedly thoroughly reviews the corruption cases, collects the relevant documents and evidence to complete the paperwork in regard to these cases. Where needed, it also conducts initial research to potentially fraudulent cases to ensure they are genuine. After all the required paperwork is completed, the department then refers these cases to the Director General of the HOO for the official referral to the Anti-Corruption Department at the AGO. If needed, reportedly the HOO can also recommend administrative sanctions until the case has been decided by the judiciary. This is the end point of the HOO’s involvement to combat corruption.

Once the corruption case has officially been submitted to the AGO, the judiciary’s jurisdiction begins. After a full investigation of the case by the AGO’s discretion, it is then referred to the court for a final decision. However, the courts are perceived as the most corrupt intuitions in Afghanistan (IWA, 2014). The corruption cases most often do not get prosecuted in the courts due to the corrupt individuals’ client-patron relationships with the politicians and senior officials in the state. According to the HOO’s annual report of 2013, a total of 177 corruption cases were submitted to the AGO for prosecution. An interview respondent highlighted that none of these cases was prosecuted in practice the judiciary.

Nonetheless, the KPK in Indonesia has the authority to conduct its own full investigations and prosecutions of corrupt acts (Bolongaita, 2010). As an independent institution, the KPK is free from any kind of outsiders’ influence. It can control and oversee each case from pre- investigation to trial without having to cooperate or compromise with outside actors (Goldfien, nd). Thus, as a lesson learned from the KPK, the HOO would need sufficient law enforcement authority to be able to investigate and prosecute the corruption cases to become an efficient ACA.

8. Summary of Discussion and Analysis

The findings of my research indicate that the HOO was not successful in its fight against corruption in Afghanistan because its quasi-three-pronged anti-corruption framework has some serious designing and implementation flaws to overcome corruption in the context of Afghanistan. In addition and according to Huther and Shah (2000), direct anti-corruption measures are likely to be ‘counter-productive’ in a situation where corruption is prevalent and there are strong incentives for corrupt practices. Hence, setting up the HOO as a key ACA in the context of Afghanistan was probably a major policy oversight. The establishment of the HOO was perhaps influenced by the fact that A) UNCAC recommends ACA as a primary anti- corruption measure, B) there was not in-depth analysis as to why the HOO should be the best choice, and C) It was decided based on a perception that some of the ACAs have worked elsewhere and probably it will also work in Afghanistan.

In order to make the HOO an efficient anti-corruption institution, it should be combined with a wider array of measures to neutralise the incentive for corruption in line with the major drivers of corruption in the context of Afghanistan. I make the following key suggestions that might enable the HOO curb corruption in Afghanistan:

First, a prerequisite to curbing the current institutionalised corruption in the context of Afghanistan is the existence of a strong ‘political will’ and ‘dare’ in the leadership of the Afghan State to bring all the corrupt politicians and officials to the courts for justice. This will indicate a strong determination against corruption and it will also attract tremendous support from the public. Second, the Afghan laws particularly the AAL needs to be revised and sensitised against corruption to tackle the current ‘ambiguity’ in the laws. The AAL should offer an explicit and inclusive definition of ‘corruption’ and it must go beyond the limits of ‘administrative corruption’. Third, the AAL in addition to ‘public awareness’ and ‘corruption prevention’ should also give the anti-corruption ‘law enforcement’ authority to the HOO to ensure the fight against corruption is successful20. The HOO should have a legal authority’ to investigate and prosecute corruption cases. This should be made possible through the establishment of a strong anti- corruption court under its framework.

Fourth, the HOO should have strong ‘oversight and corruption detection’ capabilities to ensure that the state institutions and the citizens comply with the established laws, rules and regulations to avoid legal and administrative violations.

Fifth, the HOO should be a well-resourced anti-corruption institution. The PRD must have a national outreach across the country to build awareness of the citizens on the disadvantages of corruption and report these to the HOO. It should benefit from a wider array of public education means including a dedicated television channel and radio station to convey the anti-corruption messages across the country. The PRD should also be able to build capacities, lead anti- corruption research and introduce tangible anti-corruption theories, concepts, tools and initiatives for the HOO’s effective combat against corruption in the country. Similarly, the CPD must have professionals on board to identify corruption vulnerabilities in the state laws and recommend appropriate adjustments and have the capacity to simplify the public service delivery procedures in line with the contextual realities in Afghanistan that can bring along tangible impact.

Sixth, the HOO must be independent both de facto and de jure and it must be free from any kind of intervention in its jurisdiction from outside entities including the President’s Office because this kind of interference could undermine the HOO’s autonomy to combat corruption in Afghanistan. Seventh, the HOO should have a robust and independent recruitment system in place. This will avoid recruitments based on personal relations and instead foster identification and recruitment of qualified and experienced professionals with clean backgrounds on transparent and competitive basis to pursue the mandate of this organisation. Eighth, the GoIRA should avoid parallelization of the anti-corruption bodies because this could undermine the HOO’s anti-corruption role and it could cause a weaker coordination between these institutions that could lead to the overall failure of the anti-corruption effort.

Lastly, the GoIRA should strive to establish strong coordination mechanisms in regards to the disbursement of aid in the country. The restoration of peace and security should be a national priority. The opium cultivation and its smuggling require being replaced with other licit and productive intervention in the country.

9. Conclusion

From a historical point of view, Afghanistan was not as corrupt in the previous regimes as it is now. The majority of the Afghans believe that the current pervasive, entrenched, and institutionalised corruption in the Afghan state fabric is unprecedented in the Afghanistan’s history. This happened in parallel to the Western intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 and the flow of huge amount of aid that created strong incentives for corrupt behaviour and large rents to be captured from natural resources, drugs, contractual funds and aid disbursement. In addition, there has been protracted armed conflict which further weakened the already fragile state administrative infrastructures. All these factors contributed to the eventual and wider institutionalisation of corruption and patronage system in the state institutions.

Following the continued pressures by the international community and in line with UNCAC, the GoIRA established HOO to combat corruption in Afghanistan. Immense amounts of financial resources and technical assistance were provided to this institution for its successful fight against corruption. However, this body could not mitigate corruption, but the level of corruption rather escalated to its peak and the TI announced Afghanistan as the third most corrupt country in the world. This paper has analysed and explored the reasons why the HOO was not able to mitigate corruption in Afghanistan. The HOO could not prove successful in its mission because there were some designing and implementation flaws in the conceptualization of the HOO combined with the lack of political will to combat corruption, ambiguity in the Afghan laws, resource scarcity, parallelization of the anti-corruption institutions, and overlaps between them as well protracted armed conflict and illicit incomes. The dependence of the HOO to the President’s Office in undertaking its duties and the lack of professional capacity in its human resources are the other reasons that contributed to the inability of this institution to successfully undertake its mission.

Last but not the least, the HOO’s anti-corruption approach seemed holistic at least in principle but was not robust in practice. The HOO did not have efficient anti-corruption interventions such as public awareness, corruption prevention and particularly law enforcement - but it rather pursued it administratively. The actual law enforcement and corruption prosecution authority have been with the judiciary which in itself has been notorious among the people as the most corrupt institution in the Afghan State.


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2 Verse No. 188, Sura Al Baqara, Chapter two (Translation: Sahih International at

3 Narrated from Thuban, cited at

4 Article 7, provisions of item 3, article 75 of chapter 4 and article 142 of chapter 8.

5 GoIRA signed UNCAC on 20 February, 2004.

6 Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi means Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (Bolongaita, 2010).

7 Please see:

8 Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims. During Ramadan, the official working hours are from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm in Afghanistan.

9 Integrity Watch Afghanistan conducted a survey with a total of 7,798 across Afghanistan to find fghans’ perceptions and experiences of corruption and assessment of how corruption impacts their lives and communities.

10 A copy of the AAL is available at:

11 Article 7, provision of item no. 3, Article 75 of Chapter 4, and Article 142 of the Chapter 8

12 The AAL was endorsed on July 2008.

13 Afghanistan signed the UNCAC on 20 February 2004.

14 IARCSC is an independent commission that has the mandate of bringing reforms and looking after the recruitments in the civil services in Afghanistan. For details, please see comprising of members from the IARCSC, the HOO and a third institution must interview the

15 This information is based on the field interviews as the exact figures were not available.

16 Shefafyat is a term in Dari language which means transparency in English.

17 For details, please see: television-channel.html

18 Muqarara is an Afghan terms that refers to legislations or statute law in the English language.

19 t times, some corruption cases are also referred to the HOO by the President’s Office and other government institutions for processing.

20 This will require an amendment in the Afghan Laws.

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Combating Corruption in a Conflict Situation. Appraising the Effectiveness of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan
University of Sussex  (Institute of Development Studies)
MA Governance and Development
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combating, corruption, conflict, situation, appraising, effectiveness, high, office, oversight, anti-corruption, afghanistan
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Habibullah Wahidi (Author), 2016, Combating Corruption in a Conflict Situation. Appraising the Effectiveness of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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