Social audit findings show major irregularities in construction of Mazar-e-Sharif Municipal Service Center

Rasool Ehsany, Integrity Watch Afghanistan

Dozens of the civil society advocates and citizens participated in the social audit of Municipality Customer Service Center of Mazar-e-Sharif – the largest city in northern Afghanistan and center of the strategic province of Balkh. This initiative was taken by the Provincial Integrity Network (PIN) members who received complaints from citizens re municipal services at the Municipal Service Center. The initiative was also inspired by a similar initiative taken by the PIN members in Kapisa province.

The PIN composed an audit committee of representatives from different sectors including government, civil society, and the private sector. The committee conducted a technical inspection of the Service Center building. The preliminary findings indicate major irregularities including changes in the drawings and design of the building during implementation. For instance, the construction of the conference hall was not in accordance with the drawings. In addition, the company failed to construct fences for visitors to queue. Other issues were related to supply of goods such as chairs. According to the specifications in the contract, the contractor was supposed to supply 38 chairs, but during the social audit, the PIN members found that there were only 19 chairs. Lack of adherence to procurement rules and regulations was also evident throughout the procurement process.

The PIN shared their findings with the municipality staff who promised to follow up on all issues highlighted in the social audit report. Mr. Rateb Ruhani, Head of the Customer Service Center, cooperated with the audit committee throughout the process and said that “such initiatives by citizens make government more accountable and lay foundations for effective and strong institutions in the Province.”

The construction of the center was funded by UNDP and was completed in 2016. UNDP assisted Integrity Watch and Equality for Peace and Democracy to work with PIN members in Kapisa province to conduct a similar social audit last year. Integrity Watch worked with the Balkh PIN to replicate the initiative.

Social audit is a method to measure and verify performance by reviewing official records such as contracts and actual results on the ground. Results and findings are used to advocate for improving the government’s performance. The social audit process also involves engaging with a number of stakeholder groups to promote social accountability.  Integrity Watch has held trainings on social audit for the PINs in several Provinces and has organized social audit educational visits for these networks to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in August 2017 and June 2018 respectively.

Provincial Integrity Networks are voluntary platforms of civil society activists to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity at local level. Integrity Watch organized the creation of these platforms in Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh, Parwan, Kapisa, Bamyan, and Kabul in early 2015 as knowledge sharing platforms. The networks have grown significantly in strength and mandate and have independently taken initiatives such as conducting social audits, and where needed, Integrity Watch has facilitated their operations. The networks comprise of 20-30 advocates divided into several specialized committees including access to information, public complaints, and social audit.