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PAN, December 6, 2013

200,000 USD allegedly embezzled in Paktia project

But documents show only 50,000 USD had been spent from a total 250,000 USD allocated for the project

By Sahel Mangal

Officials and locals on Friday alleged irregularities to the tune of $200,000 had been committed in a vocational training project for surrendering insurgents in Syed Karam district of southeastern Paktia province.

The latest graft claims in the restive province surface days after Afghanistan was viewed among the world’s most corrupt countries in a survey released by graft watchdog Transparency International (TI).

Officials at the provincial administration acknowledged widespread corruption in the training project was committed through applying various tactics by the officials involved.

Corruption in Paktia project

Journalists of Paktia Press Club also said they had obtained relevant documents, which they shared with locals, indicating massive corruption worth $200,000 had been committed in the project.

The project was to be accomplished within six months and initially 200 individuals, who had renounced violence and joined the peace process, were to be trained in different skills. But documents show only $50,000 had been spent from a total $250,000 allocated for the project.

According to the project documents, equipment worth $20,000 should be purchased and given to each trainee on completing formal training to help them make living on their own, but no individual could get the assistance.

Teachers and students of the project say they have been distributed raw materials worth $1,000 each against the promised material amounting to $12,000.

Local elders and some officials said they had long before warned against the enormous irregularities in the project by lodging written complaints with the authorities concerned, but no action could be initiated to ameliorate the situation.

Syed Karam district chief Niaz Mohammad Khalil told Pajhwok Afghan News he had received complaints from local elders, teachers and students complaining about graft in the project.

He said some government officials had visited the area in response to those complaints, but the problem remained.

Haji Mirza, a tribal elder, said he lodged complaints with all the relevant quarters soon after the project launch, but no step could be taken to reverse or stop what he said the corruption of an enormous magnitude, adding everyone involved in the project had a share in the anomalies.

Abdul Samad Musleh, provincial labour and social affairs director, said they had complained to high officials over the weak performance of officials involved in the project, but their calls fell on deaf ears.

Deputy provincial council chief Dr. Almir Zazai acknowledged widespread corruption in the project, saying there were many other projects rife with similar irregularities.

An official at the provincial Attorney Office, wishing anonymity, said complaints lodged with the office about the project were being investigated, saying those involved were not appearing for questioning.

Bismallah, who works on the project, said the project was facing immense obstacles and problems of severe nature.

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