The key characteristics of good governance are accountability, transparency, rule of law, responsiveness, inclusivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and participation. Most of these elements have been weak or missing from the mode of governance in Afghanistan while a crosscutting theme undermining efforts to institute these elements has been systemic corruption. In addition, it is widely acknowledged that corruption is a key deterrent preventing development aid from reaching the most vulnerable segments of the population. Open, exploratory, and non-defensive dialogue is needed to engage development aid providers, recipient national governments, and civil society organizations on measures that can be taken to bring corruption under control.
Corrupt actors, national and extra-national, have made fortunes robbing their fellow human folk of the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid money that have been flowing into Afghanistan since 2001. Research and evaluations by Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO) and others in Afghanistan have revealed time and again that corruption is now endemic in Afghanistan and a serious threat to social, economic, and political stability of the country.
Corruption has become part and parcel of how donor aid funds are expensed, how ordinary people go about their daily lives, and how private sector actors conduct their business activity. All actors, to one degree or another, play a role in perpetuating corruption. Afghanistan consistently tops the list of most corrupt countries in the world. There are currently 32 different expressions for alerting service users that they should pay a bribe. Afghans and internationals working in Afghanistan have had little choice but to succumb to pressure and contribute to corruption in a country where there was, until just over a decade ago, a tradition of shaming the families of those who were thought to be taking bribes. The opposite has been the case in the post-2001 period. Those who refuse to take bribes are now looked down upon as being unworthy, incapable, or lacking courage. The rationale given by some of the bribe takers, when probed and assured of anonymity, is that taking foreigners’ money is acceptable because Afghanistan is in a state of holy war against the infidels and thus taking foreigners’ money equates ghanimat, or war trophy. Some corrupt government officials even claim that they are collecting this ghanimat “because the money is for Afghan people”.
Numerous statements by President Ghani and recent statements by others have renewed the urgency of curbing corruption in Afghanistan. Such statements indicate that despite Afghanistan’s many challenges there is sufficient political will by elements among government officials, the international donors, private sector, and civil society to make every effort to resist and ultimately curb and eliminate corruption.
Citizens’ Forum Against Corruption (CFAC) was established in early 2016 to build on the momentum to fight corruption in Afghanistan through a civil society driven initiative. The primary focus of CFAC is the systematic corruption in tax payments and collection involving NGOs, the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance in Kabul and its line departments in Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad, and Kandahar.
CFAC will act as a forum through which civil society organizations, businesses, international donors, and ordinary citizens can protect themselves on legal grounds against extortion demands by corrupt Ministry of Finance officials and demand legislative reform and other actions to curb corruption. To this end, this project will: