CSOs urge the government to ensure public participation and prevent political interference in selection of the anti-corruption commissioners

For immediate release

Kabul, Afghanistan – Thursday, May 23, 2019: Transparency Afghanistan and Integrity Watch Afghanistan, in a joint statement, called for establishment of an independent commission and a comprehensive and inclusive strategy to engage public in the fight against corruption. The CSOs highlighted continued distrust of the public over government’s ability to tackle corruption undermining prospects of peace and stability as highlighted in the recently published UNAMA report. The report considers corruption as a major obstacle that hinders the implementation of the law and creates an environment for the prevalence of crimes and impunity.

Joy Saunders, Chairperson of Transparency Afghanistan said, “Robust measures are needed to uproot corruption which has destabilized the state and threatens the future of the country. The continued distrust of the public over government’s ability to tackle corruption is an evidence that the phenomena negatively affects people’s lives each day.” Institutionalized efforts to implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which Afghanistan ratified in 2008, are needed to tackle corruption in a consistent and comprehensive manner, Ms Saunders added.

Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch said, “Although there has been some progress in the fight against corruption, the government’s efforts have lacked an institutionalized approach. President Ghani approved the anti-corruption law in 2019 but the law does not guarantee establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency based on international standards and commitments made by the government five years ago.” The government has not taken into account civil society concerns to reconsider the selection process to ensure apolitical appointment of commissioners through transparency and meaningful participation of civil society, he added.

Nadia Bazidwal, a member of TA’s board, said that government’s lack of willingness to engage civil society in the anti-corruption efforts is questionable. She called on the government to enable the environment in which civil society can meaningfully engage with the stakeholders and contribute to the fight against corruption. “For the government to genuinely demonstrate its will in regards to combatting corruption, it should open up decision-making bodies at both national and subnational level to civil society engagement to restore trust.”, she added.

Ricardo Grassi, a member of Transparency Afghanistan’s board of directors, said that Afghanistan has some good laws but weak implementation has resulted in citizens loss of faith that corruption can be tackled. “Afghanistan has the best Access to Information Law, implementation of which can help citizens to be properly informed, creating an environment for public participation and accountability,” Mr Grassi said. He also added that consistent public communication action is needed to constantly keep anti-corruption on the agenda and foster people’s participation.

Transparency Afghanistan and Integrity Watch consider strengthening independent institutions, introducing open justice reforms, ensuring a constructive role by the newly elected parliament, and enhancing civil society engagement would ensure improved results in the fight against corruption. As fighting corruption requires a long-term and inclusive strategy, all relevant stakeholders need to work together to achieve desired outcomes.

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Specific recommendations:

Civil society organizations which are active in the fight against corruption strongly believe that the following seven points are necessary for the selection of independent commissioners to lead the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission in an apolitical manner:

  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.

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