In a small room in Kabul, Asef Alikhail bears a heavy burden. Armed with nothing but a laptop, recording devices and a handset, the 37-year-old has the daunting task of registering and managing anti-corruption complaints at the recently-established 'whistleblower' hotline, established by Intergity Watch Afghanistan in June 2015 to combat Afghanistan's label as the 4th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2014.
7000 complaints in 3 months
Asef Alikhail at his desk at the Afghanistan Transparency Foundation.
The hotline known as 'whistleblower' and its employees have already received 7000 complaints since its inception three months ago. The majority of the cases are related to the criminal justice sector and the police and come from major cities such as Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. Over 750 of the complaints have been published anonimously on the organisation's website.
The centre handles 18 different categories of corruption enquiries and receives an average of 30 phone calls per day, according to the manager Mohammad Asef Alikhail. The complaints are processed on a 22,500 USD software – developed by Afghan technology company Parsa and funded by Harakat, an Afghan NGO, – before being communicated to the President's Office.
Due to a shortage of personnel, 'whistleblower' is still limited to registering complaints by phone, and does not accept print evidence, although Alikhail says citizens will soon be able to upload data, recordings and text evidence anonimously through the website.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan sends its reports directly to the president and the secrecy with which it operates has been criticised by existing anti-graft institutions. Abdul Qader Farukh Siyar, director of Information and Public Relations at the Anti-Corruption High Institution, says he was not even informed of the new organisation's establishment and questions the need for a new institution to tackle corruption when existing ones could be reinforced. Siyar says it is the high-level intervention from elements of the new administration that should be credited with the current drive against corruption.
“The direction intervention of the leadership of the Unity Government in cases of large-scale corruption, such as Kabul Bank, contracts of the Ministries of Defense, Transportation, and Urban Development, are a showcase of the strong will of this government to fight corruption,” Siyar told Afghanistan Today, cautioning that the lack of monitoring mechanisms could still lead to a proliferation of corruption in government offices.
Recent findings of the Anti-Corruption Joint Committee suggest that around 50 per cent of this committee’s recommendations have been implemented by government institutions.
MoFA and justice sector highlighted
The Anti-Corruption Joint Committee released its eighth bi-annual report to the media on September 17, pinpointing the lack of efforts to fight corruption at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and in the criminal justice sector. The report highlighted irregularities in the recruitment process of government officials at MoFA.
Afghanistan's anti-corruption czar stressed however that the current government has maintained its election pledge to take a hardline against graft. “The progress in fighting corruption by the Unity Government is relatively significant and fighting corruption will not lead to instability of this government,” Doctor Yama Turabi, director of the Anti-Corruption Joint Committee, told Afghanistan Today.
Turabi stressed that a more coordinated approach will be needed in the Unity Government's second year along with an increase in processing capacity as “the Attorney General cannot handle the current number of cases and complaints”. He called for more coordination between governmental and non-governmental offices.
Political analyst Asef Baktash believes the Unity Government's achievements in fighting corruption in just under a year are considerable, although “corrupt elements from previous administration remain and continue to spread corruption”.