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Kunar free bread scheme: Over 1.3m afs pinched

Kunar free bread scheme: Over 1.3m afs pinched

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Aug 06, 2020 - 13:00

ASADABAD (Pajhwok): The government’s free bread distribution scheme in eastern Kunar province suffered a loss of over 1.3 million afghanis as a result of corruption, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt reliably.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus, the government decided to distribute free bread to deserving people across the country for more than one month.

Reports suggest the scheme was stymied by corruption and irregularities. There are allegations that in some areas rich individuals also received the bread while the poor were left out.

In Asadabad, the capital of Kunar, 5,459 families were identified as vulnerable and a contract was inked with 59 bakeries for providing each household with 10 pieces of bread per 24 hours. The contract, valid for six months, was terminated after 17 days for unknown reason.

Pajhwok’s finding show that over 1.3 million afghanis were embezzled even though the municipality agreed with the bakeries on higher-than-normal bread rate.

17-day Bread distribution

The governor’s office and the municipality say the free bread distribution project continued for 15 days. However, the municipality’s Facebook page says the bread distribution started on April 29 and went on till June 14 -- 16 days.

On the other hand, the bakeries involved claim distributing free bread for 17 days.

A copy of the contract between the municipality and bakery owners, available with Pajhwok, proves it was inked in violation of accounting principles and the price list of the municipality.

The contract with 59 bakeries in four municipal districts of Asadabad has 11 articles. It was approved by the provincial administration.

It says each bakery will get a 50-kilogram bag of Kazakh flour. The bakery will cook 220 bread pieces weighting 220 gram and will distribute them to vulnerable people. The bakery will be provided 3.5afs by the municipality for each piece bread.

In 17 days, all listed vulnerable families received 54,950 breads on daily bases. The total breads distributed during this period are 928,030.

Municipality price list violation

In accordance with the figures cited above, the contract inked with bakeries, insights from bakery owners and the price list they have been provided, the scheme was marred by corruption, and this it flouted the transparency principle.

According to the municipality price listte , bread weight should be 230 grams. But in the free bread distribution contract, the weight of one bread piece is 220 grams.

As per the price list, a bakery should sell one bread for 10 afs. But for those providing own flour to the bakery, the price of one bread will be 3 afs. Under the contract, the bakeries were offered 3.5 afs per bread.

If a 50-kilogram (50,000 grams) bag of flour is divided by 220 grams, it will suffice for 227 pieces of bread, Bakers’ Union says when water is added to the flour, one bag is sufficient to produce up to 250 bread pieces.

A mathematical calculation suggests the bakeries cooked 7,440 bread pieces from 248 bags of flour, which accounted for 126,480 breads in 17 days. If one bread piece costs 10 afs, the government has suffered a loss of 1,264,800 afs. 

In addition, 928,030 breads were distributed, each involving an extra payment of half an afghani. Thus the government had to bear a loss of 464,015 afs.

The total loss the government suffered in the free bread distribution in Kunar works out at 1,311,215 afs. If the process had continued for six months, the loss would have been several millions of afghanis.

How many bread loaves in a flour bag?

Pajhwok Afghan News asked the Asadabad Bakers’ Union through an official access to information form as to how many bread loaves can be produced with a flour bag and the price of cooking one piece. Based on information from the union, one flour bag could produce 250 bread loaves.

The bakers cook one bread loaf for three afghanis. They confirmed in interviews with Pajhwok that thy were left with 30 extra bread loaves in each bag of flour.

Mohammad Ibrahim, a baker in the provincial capital, said they produced from one bag 220 bread loaves, each weighing 220 grams. They charge 3.5 afghanis for cooking one bread piece.

Another baker in the city, known as Good, said one 50kg bag of flour can produced 250 bread loaves but they distributed 220 bread pieces to the deserving people based on the municipality contract and that they were left with 30 loaves.

Naeemullah, another bakery worker, reckoned that a high-quality flour bag could produce up to 260 bread loaves. He explained good flour needed more water and its weight could be increased. All bakeries received high-quality flour bags in line with the municipality contract.

Din Mohammad Safi, a member of the provincial council, alleged corruption in the contract between the bakeries and the municipality.

Fewer bread loaves were cooked from one bag of flour by the bakers, who were given more money for making a bread piece, he claimed.

if one bread could be made by three afs in normal time then the price could be decreased at the time of contracts thus one bread could be made by two afs.

Complaints over lack of transparency

Besides fraud in free bread distribution by the municipality, the selection of deserving families has also comer under flak.

People said families in a sound financial position were issued with cards but needy and poor people were not included in the list of beneficiaries.

Raz Mohammad, who has lost both legs, said municipality officials had visited his village, but his name was not put on the list of beneficiaries. He later visited the municipality but his requests fell on deaf eas.

Mohammad Ibrahim, one of the bakers, charged mostly well-off individuals received the bread assistance. Generally speaking, he admitted, poor people were ignored.

Hazrat Bilal, a civil societyinfo-icon activist in Asadabad, told Pajhwok the distribution of free bread by the government was a failed exercise in all provinces.

He accused village elders and municipality personnel of issuing free bread cards to their relatives instead of deserving individuals.

Mohammad Safi, another provincial council member, confirmed receiving complaints from the needy people who were denied free bread.

Only 10 percent people on the municipality’s list were genuinely needy, he alleged, saying the rest of card-holders were rich. Some of them even owned vehicles and markets and had jobs.

Officials’ response:

Municipality officials insisted they had distributed 928,030 bread loaves to 54,590 families in 17 days.

Mayor Obaidullah Safi recalled they had signed contracts with 59 bakeries and received 220 bread load pieces, each weighing 220 grams, in return for one bag of flour. The bakers were also paid 3.5 afs for cooking one bread loaf, he continued.

Village elders were responsible for listing the deserving people, he said, denying they were part of making lists. The free bread distribution process was overseen by a committee constituted by the governor’s house.

The mayor verified that 30 extra bread loaves went to bakers under a decision made by the provincial committee fighting Covid-19. He said the bakers, paying the government takes, were given 3.5afs for cooking a bread loaf.

Deputy Governor Dr. Gul Mohammad Baidar took great pains ro deny corruption in the scheme. If anyone found guilty would be introduced to judicial organs.

Corruption was committed in preparation of the first list of beneficiaries, he acknowledged. But after monitoring by the provincial committee, more than half of the rich individuals were removed from the list, he elaborated.

This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.

Nh/pk/mud

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