PAN, July 1, 2008

IARCSC head quits - thanks to graft culture

She asked Sabawoon several times who else was linked to the scandal. But the man replied only with the pronoun 'they.'

Muhammad Nauman Dost

Rampant corruption and consistent violations of rules by top government functionaries have forced the first-ever female head of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service (IARCSC) Commission for the eastern zone to quit her job - but not before exposing brazen malfeasance in the upper echelons.

Gulalai Jabarkhel, director of the autonomous commission, cited embezzlement of a $10,000 grant provided by the Nangarhar-based Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), appointments on the basis of sheer nepotism, misappropriation of wheat seed and open cheating in exams as principal reasons for her resignation.

Malalai Joya: "This situation continues because, of the billions of dollars that Afghanistan has received from the international community, most of the money has gone into the pockets of the warlords and druglords that the U.S. and its allies have imposed on our country....", March 3, 2008

While announcing her decision at a news conference in Kabul, she also showed journalists a videotape that unmasked the officials involved in pocketing the $10,000 provided by the PRT. The outgoing director accused bosses of the departments concerned of trampling rules and complicity in massive sleaze. Despite her best possible efforts since she took up the highly exacting job three years back, Jabarkhel grumbled, she could not prevent well-connected government functionaries contravening clearly-defined laws. The director argued she spoke up against the blatant malpractices only after collecting incontrovertible proofs.

The $10,000 PRT grant was stolen by Muhammad Wali Sabawoon, coordinator for the governance capacity-building project in the eastern zone, charged Jabarkhel, who came to know of the fraud when participants of a seminar complained their signatures were taken on two lists but they were actually paid accommodation charges mentioned on one list only. In this way, she estimated, more than 49,000 afghanis ($1000) were siphoned off. Pajhwok Afghan News has obtained copies of written complaints from participants of the seminar held in Mehtarlam, capital of the Laghman province. The Nangarhar PRT had provided $15,000 for the event, she explained, alleging Sabawoon pinched two-thirds of the amount. It was on Sabawoon's insistence that she signed the receipt with her observations, not having even an inkling of the rip-off. The panel head, however, rued affixing her signatures to the phony receipt. She claimed Abdul Rahman Rasikh, provincial Affairs Director in charge of the commission's provincial relations department, connived with Sabawoon at the scam. She said: "Sabawoon received instructions from Rasikh."

But Rasikh, repudiating the allegation as groundless, scorned the impression that the IARCSC chief was unaware of the $10,000 swindle. Putting her signature to the proof of payment meant she knew it all, he contended.

In the 29-minute videotape, Sabawoon confessed to his crime and said his family was extremely upset over the misappropriation, so much so that his father wept copiously. She asked Sabawoon several times who else was linked to the scandal. But the man replied only with the pronoun 'they.'

"They told me to give part of the money to the director," he added. At the end of the probing questions, he implied Abdul Rahman Rasikh and National Governance Programme Advisor Mustafa Behrami also had their shares in the booty.

With regard to Sabawoon's assertion, Rasikh said a team of the commission had been tasked with investigating four suspects in the graft case. With the completion of the probe, he assured, all those involved in the sordid affair would be unmasked. He suggested the investigation launched on June 3 would be concluded in a fortnight from now.

But Muhammad Jan Dastagir, a member of the investigating team, told this scribe the probe had already been completed and they had submitted a detailed report to the IARCSC central office on June 7.

Rasikh went on to brand Jabarkhel as a weak-kneed administrator. Asked why a vital state institution expected to reform other organisations allowed an incompetent person to call the shots for three long years, he replied they wanted her to hone her professional skills and performance.

Confirming that corruption is now a deep rooted malice in the country, a global corruption index has placed Afghanistan on 172nd spot in a list of 180 countries. The Global Corruption Report 2008 released by Transparency International a global coalition against corruption -- gives Afghanistan just 1.8 points out of a total score of 10; reflecting that corruption has gained ground during the post-Taliban era.
PAN, June 27, 2008

By the same token, another IARCSC official Sanjer pleaded - in a recorded conversation - with the director not to institute the case. But she disagreed, saying Sabawoon being a criminal should be given marching orders. Although Sabawoon's family returned the stolen money, Jabarkhel alleged conspiracies continue to be hatched against her and she did not want to continue in the hot seat.

In the wake of this controversy, administrative head of IARCSC central office Dr. Wali Ahmad Hamidzada asked the woman in a letter dated June -10 -- to come to Kabul. Through a formal communication, ex-chief of the commission's regional office in the southeastern zone Ghulam Ali Joshan was named as acting head. She disclosed the central office had asked her to keep drawing her pay while waiting for her next assignment.

She has been asked to sign the attendance sheet and then stay at home. She viewed the directives as inconsistent with the law, reasoning she had committed no crime. The appointment of an acting IARCSC head amounted to a bare-knuckle shot at sacking her, she thought.

According to her, appointments to government jobs in the eastern zone are made in utter disregard of the statutes in vogue. Last year's appointment of Eng. Hakimuddin as deputy mayor of Nangarhar was a case in point, revealed. Jabarkhel considered appointments made on recommendations of the local administration as violative of IARCSC Selection Board's law.

As the appointment of Eng. Hakimuddin was endorsed, Sayed Farhad's recruitment in basic pay scale (BPS) 5 in the IT Department of the Nangarhar Customs was opposed by AIRCSC head Dr. Mushahid. Nonetheless, he continues to hold the slot.

A letter Dr. Mushahid sent to the Finance Ministry on March 26 states the appointment made without open competition runs counter to the law, and the vacancy should be filled after the conduct of transparent tests and interviews. Interestingly enough, this order was not enforced in the appointment of Nangarhar's deputy mayor, simply due to preferential treatment, Jabarkhel remarked.

Under Article 15 of the Civil Service Rules, appointments are to be made on the basis of open competition. The law under reference specifically banned recruitment based on recommendations from higher-ups with effect from March 7, 2006. The deputy mayors appointment was made on March 17, 2008, and hence the unabashed disdain for the law.

Documents obtained from the IARCSC office indicate a corruption-tainted man was chosen as agriculture director of the Laghman province. The beneficiary, Ismail Dawlatzai, formerly headed the Nangarhar Agriculture Department. He was accused of selling 35,000 kilograms of wheat seeds for farmers and 100 bags of fertilizers. A case of embezzlement against him was sent to the agriculture minister in September 2005.

Similarly, the papers suggest the appointment of Syed Aziz Zaheer as acting in-charge of the food quality and control wing of the Nangarhar Agriculture Department was made in contravention of the relevant rules. He was appointed to the slot one full month after the last date for open competition had been over.In December 2006, a vacancy for the labour and social affairs head was announced in Nangarhar. Candidates with master's in journalism, literature, medicine, Islamic law, BA (economics) and a Grade-12 graduate were shorted-listed for the position. The least qualified of all contenders, Haji Hayat Khan, (a Grade-12 graduate) was appointed to the post.

Jabarkhel claimed Hayat Khan grabbed the slot - thanks to his links with Dr. Mushahid. The appointee did not have even a Grade-12 certificate, she said while narrating the sleaze story. For his part, Rasikh said the vacancy was not filled on the basis of open competition because the Ministry of Works and Social Affairs had not been reformed as yet.

While recommendation-based appointments continue in the institutions awaiting reforms, recruitment on merit has become mandatory in other organisations that have gone through the process.

Haji Hayat, contradicting Rasikh's view, asserted he landed the slot as a result of participation in open competition. He scorned the accusation that his appointment was the outgrowth of his connections with Dr. Mushahid. Hayat maintained his selection was premised on his experience and knowledge.Also in the run for the post was Abdullah, who has a master's in journalism. The dejected young man griped he was denied his right. "You can better judge how an under-graduate can outperform a master's degree-holder."

For a post in the sectoral department at the Governor's House in Jalalabad, a Grade-12 graduate outdid candidates with much higher qualifications. The outspoken lady once again assailed Dr. Mushahid for leaning on board members to give the Grade-12 graduate the highest marks. Mushahid could not be contacted for comments on the issue.

With the culture of partiality and favouritism flagrantly promoted by people in high places, the Nangarhar University chancellor was also appointed through the backdoor. The LEP procedure, governing this recruitment, was disregarded. As per rules, the job involving 2,000 dollars in salary should go to a distinguished Afghan expatriate.

In order to ensure the appointment of a blue-eyed, non-professional Grade-12 boy to a post in the Nangarhar Customs Department, the authorities prepared a patently jejune questionnaire, unrelated to the job. The questions asked were: Name four chemical fertilizers used in Afghanistan. Define fertilizer. How many fertilizer-manufacturing plants are there in Afghanistan, and where are they located? Import of which dairy products into Afghanistan is banned? And explain your job description!

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