UNODC to international community: Support Afghanistan’s High Office for Oversight & Anti-Corruption
KABUL - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime today called on the international community to support the Government of Afghanistan’s High Office for Oversight and Anti-Corruption as it praised the office for enjoying the trust of the Afghan people.
In a press conference held at the Kabul headquarters of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Jean Luc Lemahieu, country representative for UNODC, made the call in the presence of Oversight Office’s Deputy Director-General Qaseem Ludin.
“The international community and the Government should support the High Office, ensuring that it has the powers, resources, and independence that it needs to fulfil its challenging and crucially important responsibilities,” stressed Mr Lemahieu, pointing out that “Afghanistan needs a strong and independent and adequately resourced institution capable of leading the fight against corruption.”
The UNODC country director for Afghanistan said that the High Office for Oversight “enjoys public trust” as the UNODC survey participants “said that after tribal or religious leaders, the body they would be most likely to report corruption to would be the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption.”
Mr Lemahieu stressed that the UNODC report is “not another accusatory finger pointing towards the Government” but “the start of a recovery process with a correct diagnosis of the situation… allowing targeted evidence-based policy which is to be agreed upon at the London Conference.”
He said the London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January “is an opportunity for the Government and the international community to come together to renew their commitment to partnering for a better future for Afghanistan.”
“Corruption will be a critical topic of discussion at this conference, and this report will inform that discussion and assist the Government and international community in setting tough but realistic strategies and benchmarks that will lead to real progress in the fight against corruption,” he added.
Mr Lemahieu noted that the Afghan Government had “already designed a framework for its anti-corruption efforts, and UNODC and the rest of the international community have committed their full support to this crucial effort.”
The Government of Afghanistan presented its anti-corruption strategy during yesterday’s 13th meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) co-chaired by UNAMA chief Kai Eide.
“The purpose of this study is not to embarrass the Government or harm the image of Afghanistan. The international community also has responsibility for the prevalence of corruption in Afghanistan, and corruption occurs in every country in the world,” said Mr Lemahieu.
He stressed: “The purpose of this report is to provide detailed and practical information to the Government of Afghanistan and the international community which they can use as they take on their shared responsibility to reduce the corruption documented by this study.”
UNODC presented the findings of its pilot survey on corruption where it interviewed 7,600 people in 12 provincial capitals and more than 1,600 villages around Afghanistan.
The extrapolated data revealed that corruption “occurred more often in rural areas that in urban areas” and that “bribery was more prevalent in the South and North than in the East and West of the country.”
The survey also found that “men were more likely than women to have paid bribes” which are “usually explicitly demanded and paid in cash.”
Customs officers were found to be the “recipients of the most costly bribes, on average”; while “officials requesting bribes the highest proportion of the time” are customs officers, prosecutors, police officers and judges.
“Police were the recipients of the greatest number of bribes, followed by municipal/provincial officers, then judges and prosecutors,” said Mr Lemahieu who added that “people also reported being forced to bribe doctors, nurses and teachers.”
“The cost of an average bribe was US $158, a huge amount of money in a country this poor, where the per capita income is only US$ 425 per year,” said the UNODC official who further revealed that over the past 12 months, “US$ 2.5 billion in bribes were paid, equalling 23 per cent of Afghanistan's GDP.”
“This is similar to revenue accrued by the opium trade in 2009 (estimated by UNODC at US$ 2.8 billion). This means that the amount of money changing hands through corruption and through the narcotics trade together is equal to half of the country's licit GDP (gross domestic product) – a shocking figure,” lamented Mr Lemahieu.
By Aurora V. Alambra, UNAMA