An Independent Anti-Corruption Commission?  A proof test of government’s will to fight corruption

Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director

President Ghani committed to establishing an independent anti-corruption commission almost five years ago during the London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014 – a promise he has backtracked on since then. The establishment of an independent anti-corruption commission has become a proof test of the government’s will to fight corruption since then.

After four years of advocacy by civil society and the international community, in 2018 the government finally agreed to pass the anti-corruption law to establish an independent commission. However, what was published as the proposed law in the Official Gazette was completely different from what civil society and international actors were expecting. Invisible hands within the palace completely removed civil society and independent institutions from the selection process of the Commissioners. After months of advocacy, the government finally agreed to review and change the selection process to make it more transparent through civil society participation.

However, in a recent legislative decree, the government has ruled that five government institutions and civil society introduce 25 candidates each. From this list of candidates the Civil Service Commission, which itself is not an independent institution, has been tasked to short-list 15 candidates and introduce them to the President for final selection. It is obvious that the government has again tried to limit civil society role in the selection process. If this selection process is not changed, it will lead to another non-independent institution which would, yet again, be a waste of time and resources.

Therefore, civil society organizations which are active in the fight against corruption strongly believe that the following key points are necessary for the selection of independent members of the Commission:

  1. Debarment of government affiliates: Individuals who have worked in senior government positions in the last three years should be debarred from the process to ensure that individuals from the government with political agendas are restricted from making their way onto the Commission.
  2. A competitive and transparent selection process: Independent institutions and civil society organizations working on anti-corruption issues should manage a competitive and transparent process to select 10 individuals who in turn would be introduced to the President.
  3. Government vetting of candidates: The Civil Service Commission’s role should be restricted to the vetting of the candidates.
  4. Public vetting of candidates: Once 10 candidates are introduced to the President, the Office of the President should seek public feedback on the candidates to ensure that they are all publicly vetted.
  5. Transparency in the final selection by the President: All candidates passing government and public vetting should be interviewed transparently by the President. The interviews should be publicly broadcast through television for the public to know the attitudes, knowledge, and plans of the candidates and to observe how much the President takes these issues into account. It is particularly important that the President only selects candidates who have strong attitudes against corruption and are prepared to take decisive action against the corrupt.
  6. Fixed tenure of commissioners: The commissioners should be appointed for a fixed term to ensure job-security for them and to prevent government influence in their work.
  7. Gardening leave: A gardening leave requirement should also be imposed on retiring commissioners after they complete their tenure to mitigate risks of compromising their role by being granted immediate favors by the government.