The Killid Group, February 9, 2014
Registration of properties fails to counter corruption
Afghan courts have not been able to make sure investigations in corruption cases against the powerful are completed
The Property Registration Unit in the High Office of Oversight and Corruption (HOOAC) is mandated to register properties of all high-ranking authorities. But former officials in the unit say it has neither been successful nor countered administrative corruption.
Head of Property Registration Unit Ghaws Janbaz says properties of some 8,000 senior government authorities have been registered since the office was established on Nov 18, 2008 under the presidential decree of July 21 the same year.
Azizullah Ludin, former head of HOOAC, calls the registration process a “failed programme”. He says that while it seemed that registration would be an effective and simple way to counter corruption in the ranks of high-level government officials in reality it has failed to prevent amassing of undeclared properties.
Ludin’s office found anomalies in what was registered and what was owned. For instance a minister may have showed he has property worth 30,000 USD but after six months it was seen that he has purchased houses and apartments in the best Kabul neighbourhoods, he says.
Afghan courts have not been able to make sure investigations in corruption cases against the powerful are completed. According to Ludin, the dossiers on Minister of Finance Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and Ismail Khan, former water and energy minister, for example are still in the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office. The AG’s Office, which refused to be interviewed, has earlier said there wasn’t enough evidence to probe corruption in the two cases.
Under Article 154 of the Constitution the president, vice presidents, ministers, governors, judges of the high court and AG’s Office among other high ranking elected and appointed officials have to register all property they own both before and after the end of their terms with a designated office, in this instance the Property Registration Unit in HOOAC. After registration the documents have to be verified by the office. Herein lies the catch. The process of verification has simply not been followed. Ghaws Janbaz, the head of Property Registration Unit, naturally defends his office. It is simply not possible to investigate the registrations and verify the properties because the documents submitted by individuals were not in order, he told Killid.
Gul Rahman Qazi, the head of the Monitoring Commission for Implementation of the Constitution, observes, “According to the Constitution when the property of a person is registered it should be investigated otherwise the registration loses meaning.”
Dr Ghulam Haidar Alama, a lecturer at Ibn-e-Sina Private University, says the Property Registration Unit has shirked its responsibility. Article 154 is very clear about the unit’s responsibility under the Constitution, he adds.
Ludin has reported the “inefficiency and ineffectiveness” of the department to President Hamid Karzai. “There was doubt about its efficiency from the beginning,” he says.
Mohammad Yasin Osmani, a member of the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, believes the process of registering properties is forcing a separation between legal and illegal income. The Property Registration Unit is empowered to keep track of the increase or decrease in property owned by all authorities at the highest level. The list includes members of the national assembly, provincial councils, district councils, deputy ministers, head of independent presidencies, ambassadors, mayors, deputy mayors, vice governors, officials in the ministries of defence and interior affairs, and high ranking officials in all procurement and financial departments.
Unwilling to submit
Head of Property Registration Unit Ghaws Janbaz says his office has not been able to convince all members of Parliament (MPs) to register their moveable and immoveable wealth. He says his officials have sent registration forms to MPs but some have refused to submit the forms saying it is not a legal requirement.
Gul Rahman Qazi, the head of the Monitoring Commission for Implementation of the Constitution, blames this on the lacuna in the law.
Meanwhile MPs and members of the National Assembly have called the Property Registration Unit inefficient, and said the unit is to blame for the failure to get all their properties registered. Chaman Shah, an MP, says most of his colleagues have filled and returned the registration forms.
National Assembly member Gul Ahmad Azami considers it the “duty” of the registration unit to keep track of all their properties, even those that are newly acquired. “Ever since we filled out the forms no one has asked us how much more capital we have now?” he says.
At cross purposes
Gul Rahman Qazi questions the constitutional authority of the HOOAC. “Such an office is not defined in the Constitution,” he says. “Only the names of the AG’s Office, police and judiciary have been mentioned.” In his opinion the office is duplicating the work of the justice system, and as a result with the two offices working in tandem, there is only interference and little progress in their work.
According to Mohammad Yasin Osmani, a member of the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, the Property Registration Unit has been set up in the HOOAC to comply with the requirements of the UN Convention against Corruption, which came into force in 2005. Afghanistan ratified the convention in 2008.
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