Antiquated system still in place in most govt departments
KABUL (Pajhwok): Despite the flow of billions of dollars in aid over the past 15 years, most government institutions in Afghanistan are still run in a traditional way that creates corruption chances and delays a formal response to public demands.
Pajhwok Afghan News, for example, researched the systems of the Population Registration Department, Traffic Department and Education Ministry. Many citizens throng these government organs in connection with different issues.
The Pajhwok team found adherence to the outdated system and lack of efforts to modernise or reform it have spawned more problems for the people who are made to suffer in different ways. Importantly, this modus operandi has multiplied chances of graft, procrastination, loss and theft of documents.
Central Population Registration Department (CPRD)
CPRD is responsible to maintain the record of citizens and approve their nationality. It is one of the departments following an outdated system. Vital information about citizens is kept in files. Copies of these documents are also kept in districts and provincial capitals.
These days, long queues of visitors can be seen in front of CPRD as more and more want to apply for passports. Before getting passports, they have to get approval from CPRD for national identity cards (Tazkera).
A CPRD official revealed some vital documents were burnt during the civil war in southern parts of the country and others were lost as they could not be stored in a secure place. He some people had to visit Kabul to get their Tazkera applications approved.
Issuance of new Tazkera, photo change, approval of Tazkera, change of name, age, employment, marital status, and registration of foreigners are the tasks of CPRD.
Noor Ahmad Ghafoorzai, the CPRD director, told Pajhwok Afghan News, 18,000 registers containing information regarding citizen identities were being kept in the department. “We always remain worried about the safety of these documents and strive hard to ensure their protection.”
Ghafoorzai explained the registration documents had become old with time and their security was difficult, requiring special care and more resources. “If these documents are computerised,our concerns will be addressed and there will be little chanceof corruption in the department.”
In addition to the problems associated with the antiquated system, visitors complainof growing corruption, incompetence of staff and other issues. Mujtaba Payenda, 20, a resident of southern Ghazni province, recently traveled to Kabul to change the photo on his Tazkera.
He said his identity documents in Ghazni officewere burnt and had to come to Kabul to have his problem resolved. “I have brought a relative, whose Tazkera will help find my document quickly.” If the current documents had been computerised, the process could have been completed with a few clicks.
Another applicant, Gulalai, 22, come to CPRD to change her name. She grumbled she had been visiting the department for the past four months, but the issue lingered on. She said the situation forced many people to bribe staff for the resolution of their problems.
The Pajhwok team visited a room where 40-year-old documents are kept in pretty ordinary conditions and no special arrangements have been made to ensure their safety. Officials have no information how many individuals have been registered and provided with the Tazkera because the system is not computerised.
Due to the lack of a proper registration arrangement, exact population figures are not available. The Central Statistics Organisations (CSO) came up with a different estimate,putting the population at 29,200,000 -- 15 million men and 14 million women.
But the World Bank (WB) website shows Afghanistan’s population at 32,526,506 people. But exact information about the population of the country has been missing. If the situation remains unchanged, chances of misuse of human resources, exploitation of important events such as elections, the use of Afghan passport by outsiders -- as it happened some months back -- could not be ruled out.
Indian security officials arrested two Pakistani citizens who entered New Delhi from Kabul on Afghan passports.Reports quoted Indian security officials as saying the two Pakistanis, who arrived in India on the pretext of medical treatment, intended to carry out terrorist attacks in different parts of the New Delhi.
Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani confirmed some months ago India and Saudi Arabia had imposed new visa restrictions on Afghans. The UAE has also set more conditions for the Afghans visiting the Gulf country.
There is a clear mismatch of perceptions among CPRD officials on modernisation of the departmental system. Earlier, Ghafoori said they had launched computerisation of the hard data on the population with the financial support of the International Organisation of Migration and information regarding 3,000 individuals was entered into the new system daily.
After seven months, however, Ghafoori forgot his earlier words.He said nosteps had been taken toward computerisation of the population data. The process of computerising ID cards has also been put on hold in the absence of a strong political will.
The exact number of refugees living in Pakistan, Iran and other countries is also a concern. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation estimates the number of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan at around five million.
The Traffic Department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) is tasked with registering vehicles, issuing driving licenses and handling related issues. Its system could not be streamlined as all documents are kept manually. Mohammad HanifSediqui, head of the traffic department, said licences of different kinds continued to be issued in line with a 50-year-old system. As a result, applicants suffer a lot.
He said the department had issued 760,000 travel permits, 1,450,000 driving licences since 2001. Storage and safety of the documents was a difficult task, he acknowledged, saying higher-ups had been requested to modernise the department and introducea new system but no response had been received so far.
Col. Abdul Rahman Karimi, vehicle registration manager at the traffic department, said around 798 vehicles, including high speed cars, trucks, taxis, buses, rickshaws and motorcycles had been registered in the recently-activated computerized system at the department.
But he said the electronic registration system of vehicles remained limited to urban areas and a large number of non-custom paid (NCP) vehicles could be seen in rural areas.
“The traffic department is more active in urban areas where it impounds NCP vehicles, but such vehicles are used in rural areas where traffic police don’t exist,” Karimi said.
In the new system, each vehicle is registered on a special page that contains all specifications of the vehicle. Registering biometric information of vehicles’ owners and other specifications on the page is part of future plan.
Karimi confirmed some people had misused the traditional registration method and had been issued with more than four driving licenses for a single vehicle.
Registering a vehicle through traditional system took around three months, but now the process was completed within few days thanks to the computerized system, he said.
However, he added most sections of the traffic department performed their tasks using traditional methods because they were yet to be computerized.
He said computerizing the entire department would help banish corruption and accelerate the registration processes.
A week earlier, Mohammadullah Batash, the transport and civil aviation minister, said that around 1.9 million vehicles including 312,000 trucks, 104,000 buses and 1.2 million high speed cars were registered with his ministry.
A number of people referring to the traffic department said their works were processed very slow due to the traditional registration system at the department.
They said they were sometimes forced into paying kickbacks to middlemen to finish their tasks at the traffic department.
Bahman, 25, a resident of Karta-i-Sakhi area said that two weeks ago he visited the traffic department in order to get his driving license renewed. “The officers there told me I should wait so they could find my documents among the thousands of documents, but my documents could not be despite two weeks had passed.”
He believed the computerized system could find his documents in a very short time that would help him and the officials to simplify their work process.
Bahman said he was obliged to pay money to a middleman to finish his work. However, he did not say how much money he paid.
Kabul education department
The Ministry of Education (MoE) is the largest non-military institute. Despite its performance and development described as good during the past 15 years, but figures and statistics of students and schools change whenever a new minister is introduced.
MoE spokesman Mujib Mehrdad said previous statistics put the number of students across the country at about 10.5 million against the current 9.5 million including 5.8 million boys and 3.7 million girls.
Based on the current statistics, 15,838 schools exist all over the country, he added. Some sections, including the documents’ registration process of teachers and school graduates have been computerized in the ministry, a process that is ongoing, Mehrdad said.
“Computerization of education system ensures transparency, it simplifies evaluation and control and provides accurate statistics and decreases corruption,” he said.
However, education officials and the Presidential Palace have different statistics about the education sector.
About five months back, the current education minister, Asadullah Hanif Balkhi, put the number of students at 8.5 million.
Balkhi had said that the absence of an electronic system in the ministry had led to the registration of 764 schools of a district in another district.
But the statistics published by the Presidential Palae in June, 2016 show a clear difference in the figures.
The Presidential Palace has put the number of schools to 13,000 across the country, which shows around 2,000 difference compared to the statistics provided by the MoE spokesman.
A Pajhwok team that visited the Kabul education department saw all the tasks there were being performed traditionally and the referrers there had to wait for a long time so their works were processed.
Kabul Education Director Mohammad Sayed Mansoor said around 1.2 million students attended schools in Kabul city. He said all documents of the students were registered under the traditional system.
He expressed concern about the current state of affairs in the ministry and feared possible loss of documents. “Computerization of the system would provide significant facilities and it would prevent the waste of time and corruption,” he said.
Basit, a school student from Gul Dara district of Kabul, said he had been attempting migration to a Kabul city school over the past three months to continue his education. But his school documents were yet to be transferred to Kabul city, he said.
He said he would not have suffered the long wait if there was a computer-based system in the education sector.
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