Many Balkh directors in office for more than 10 years
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Several senior government officials and departmental heads have neither been transferred nor removed from their positions over the past more than a decade in northern Balkh province.
Provincial council (PC) members say these officials are either corrupt or have strong political connections.
While civil society activists say if these officials are found good servants to the people after an assessment, they should be transferred to other areas for service.
According to information collected by Pajhwok Afghan News, directors of the Balkh public health, economy, rural development, environment protection, mayor, the governor’s house chief of staff, his spokesman, the sectorial and technical affairs department head at the governor’s house, the electricity department head, public works director, information and culture director and officials of the Hairatan dry port township have been working on their positions over the past one decade.
The governor’s spokesman, Munir Farhad, confirmed the list of these officials when Pajhwok shared it with him. Farhad himself is among the long serving officials.
The rural development director, Basit Aini, said the secret of his 13 years stay in office was his services to the people.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News no one could deny that his department had been running its affairs in a transparent way over the past 13 years.
He mentioned the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) under which hundreds of welfare projects had been completed and hundreds more were being executed.
Basit Aini also mentioned several others achievements his department had made during the period.
He did not rule out corruption in his department, but said he had always tried to deal with the menace seriously. He said whenever the government deemed him unfit for the job, he was ready to quit.
Electricity Director Eng. Mohammad Nasir, who has been in office for the past 12 years, said he had many contributions to the sector.
He said 12 years ago, electricity was only available in Mazar-i-Sharif and the Hairatan port and its voltage had been low. There was only 24 megawatts of electricity in Balkh four years ago compared to 90 megawatts today, he said.
Currently besides Mazar-i-Sharif and the Hairatan port, several districts have been extended electricity, the director said.
Nearly three years ago, Da Afghanistan Bareshna Shirkat (DABS) again selected him to continue as the electricity director among five aspirants through an open contest, he said.
Inayatullah Zafar, who has been serving as the public works director for the last 12 years, also linked his prolonged stay in office to his services to the people.
During his stay in office, Zafar said, he had been able to blacktop 400 kilometres of roads and rehabilitate another 200 km of roads besides constructing 40 km new roads in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Zafar said the government evaluated his department’s affairs every year and that he was happy that the government and people were satisfied with his performance.
Balkh Information and Culture director Saleh Mohammad Khaliq said he had never tried to extend his stay in office through illegal means. He said as a writer he was happy to work and preserve the region’s culture for the last one decade.
He said the information and culture department was among entities which provided most of the civic services. He said corruption in his department was rarely committed.
“Issuing work licences to media outlets and running the affairs of Bakhtar news agency are some of the important tasks we perform. In these two areas, illegal activities rarely take place.”
Civil society activists say prolonged stay office for directors is illegal and paves the ground for corruption and illegal activities in countries like Afghanistan.
They say if such officials in a province happen to be good servants, they should be transferred to other provinces to improve affairs there.
Civil society groups’ union head, Ustad Hamid Sefot, told Pajhwok Afghan News good governance did not come with reshuffling of officials, but could be ensured by evaluating their performance and contributions.
He said people might have no complaint about prolonged stay of officials in office, but they had complaints about weak performance of some departments.
He said it would be wrong to presume that officials who had spent many years in office must be involved in corruption. “We should look into the results of their works.”
“It is unfortunate that in countries like Afghanistan where corruption remains endemic such posts are somehow sold or given into control of a specific group.”
Sefot said such illegal activities occurred across Afghanistan not only in Balkh, suggesting officials with poor performance despite many years in office should be transferred.
The activist said good services needed a new system in which negligent officials could not stay in office for a long time.
But Khat-i-Naw civil society group leader Abdul Qadir Misbah said transferring and removing officials was considered a basic requirement of good governance.
He said if a director proved to be good in delivery of services, he should be transferred to another province to do the same there.
About prolonged stay in office by departmental heads, Misbah said: “Our major concern is that such officials deliver services to some particular individuals and step-motherly treat others.”
He said either the central government was complicit or these officials had strong connections with local authorities.
He said it was itself corruption when a director stayed in office for so long or the post remained in control of a particular group.
He said there were problems in the public health, public works, rural development, communication departments, the municipality, Hairatan port and customs in Balkh province.
Provincial council chief Mohammad Ibrahim Khairandesh also criticized the prolonged stay in office by most of the departmental heads.
He said such appointments should be carried out with sincerity and honesty. “Every departmental head who stays in office for more than 10 years is either corrupt or has strong political connections.”
He said every department was rife with corruption, but the level of corruption varied from department to department.
“When ask government offices, they say everything is right and in order, but when we hear from people about corruption, you cannot deny corruption in all departments,” Khairandesh said.
But the provincial government spokesman, Munir Farhad, said it was the authority of the central government to keep a departmental head for a prolonged period in office.
He said transfer and removal of such officials was not a provincial subject but the authority of the central government.
He said the central government evaluated the performances of departmental heads every year and if their activities had been found negative or unsatisfactory, they should have been transferred.
Farhad said the central authorities concerned had not only evaluated the activities of these officials, but they had appreciated them for their performances.
“Their stay in office does not mean they are corrupt, but the central government regards them the right persons to head the departments until their replacement are found.”
He said some departmental heads had been appointed as part of the government’s reforms programme and their prolonged stay in office was problematic.
He said he and the governor’s office chief of staff, the provincial technical and sectorail director had gone through the reforms process.
Farhad said the officials would continue to serve on their posts until they resigned or their performances were evaluated as negative.
He said the provincial council chief’s remarks about corruption in government departments were his personal views and rejected the notion that prolonged stay in office paved the ground for corruption and other illegal activities.
He said the provincial government would not oppose the appointments of departmental heads through open competitions and under the reforms programme.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.