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The Killid Group, May 23, 2015

Public money for private use

A scrutiny of government spending in 2014-15 reveals frequent withdrawals by the president.

By Omed Zahirmal

Code 91 is a part of the budget that the president has complete control over, and to be used in case of emergency. But money has been withdrawn against the signature of previous president Hamid Karzai in the last financial year for disbursal among Members of Parliament (MPs), senators, high-ranking government authorities, his advisers and office. Very little has gone into the pockets of the poor.

Documents available with Killid show money was withdrawn to felicitate people and for celebrations of national days. On one occasion, a withdrawal was made for the burial of the father of one of Karzai’s advisers. And another to welcome home an Afghan vice-president.

As there are no specified rules on the code 91 withdrawals, some entries are vague.

The first withdrawal listed on the documents with Killid is Karzai’s approval of some 2 million Afs (33,700 USD) for treatment of a vice-president. This is while just 40,000 Afs (670 USD) was given for treatment to a soldier who lost his leg and hand in a military operation.

At number 12 on the same page there is an entry for 4,668,376 Afs (78,500 USD) “aid to some of the deserving individuals” but no mention of how many people received the money or how much was paid to each.

The first withdrawal listed on the documents with Killid is Karzai’s approval of some 2 million Afs (33,700 USD) for treatment of a vice-president. This is while just 40,000 Afs (670 USD) was given for treatment to a soldier who lost his leg and hand in a military operation.
The Killid Group, May 23, 2015

On page three, the 51st entry is “For assistance of some elders of a province”. Neither has the province been identified nor the number of elders who together have collected an astounding 1.2 million Afs (20,200 USD).

There is an entry of 6 million Afs (101,000 USD) as travel expenses for the vice president.

At 65 on page 3 is the entry of “4 million Afs (67,300 USD) as monthly salary for head and members of commission, fuel expenses of commission”. Again, no explanation of how salaries can be justified by a code 91 withdrawal and what commission the payment was made for.

On page 4, item number 85 is for 15 million Afs (252,500 USD) towards expenses for the flag-hoisting ceremony in Mazar-e-Sharif at the Shrine of Hazrat Ali on the first day of the solar year (March 21). Item number 102 on page 5 is the withdrawal of some 1 million Afs (16,800 USD) to felicitate the second vice president on his return from a visit abroad.

Number 3 on the first page reads, “For assistance of 8 guards of Professor Sebghatullah Mojededi (jihadist leader), the allocated money is 3,020,000 Afs (50,835 USD).” At number 8 (page one), 50,000 Afs (842 USD) were given for the burial ceremonies of Shahzada Masoud, a former advisor of Karzai and head of the cricket association. Some 2 million Afs (33,600 USD) were given as assistance in addition (item number 107).

On the 13th anniversary of the assassination of national hero, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Karzai approved the withdrawal of 3 million Afs (50,500 USD) for the ceremonies.

On page 7 (item 107), one member of the media is a beneficiary. “For assistance of Rah-e-Madaniat (route of civilization), the given money is 150,000 Afs (2,525 USD).” Asghar Eshraq, the chief editor, acknowledges receiving the amount and spending it on a cultural programme.

Also MPs and government officials who have benefited admit receiving the money but fail to explain what they did with it.

Ramazan Bashardost, MP from Kabul, received a total of some 600,000 Afs (10,100 USD in two installments on April 24 and Sept 22, 2014 respectively). He claims this is part of the money owed to him. “Parliament owes me some 1,494,000 Afs (25,149 USD). This is what other MPs have got and I have not received as my salary, and salary of my driver and guards.” He shared with Killid a document that shows he had requested 5 million Afs (84,166 USD) but rejected the former president’s offer “for purchasing the car to show his faithfulness”.

Bashardost has one driver (no guards have been seen with him). He claims he needs money to pay for a plot of land that he has bought, and also to repay loans from other MPs. He asks Killid to relay a request to President Ashraf Ghani. “My request is that the government should give remainder of 894,000 Afs (15,049 USD) too because this is my right and I don’t want to waive my right.” He sees no wrongdoing it taking money withdrawn under code 91 since “the president has the right to give this money under name of assistance” and Parliament has “mistakenly” approved such withdrawals. Other MP beneficiaries.

* Gul Pacha Majidi, MP from Paktia, has got 300,000 Afs (5,050 USD) from code 91 as compensation for the damage to his house following a suicide attack on passing US forces. “The palace gave me the money,” he says.

* Amirjan Dawlatzai, MP from Nangarhar, got 4 million Afs (67,300 USD). He did not take Killid’s phone calls.

* Shukria Barekzai, MP from Kabul, has benefitted twice: the first time she received 169,000 Afs (2,845 USD) and second time 200,000 Afs (3,367 USD).

The Ministry of Finance says it allocated some 1 billion Afs (16.8 million USD) for code 91 in 2014 – all has been spent. Abdul Qader Jailani, the ministry’s spokesperson says it is up to the president “how the money is spend”.

Category: Corruption - Views: 4482