The Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND) was established two years ago and initially it was led by Wafi Amin, who came from the US. The office was running construction projects inside the Presidential Palace.
Later, according to TOLOnews findings, OSOPND was also given the Darulaman Palace renovation project. It was these two projects that President Ashraf Ghani decided to award to the operational department, and he appointed Wafi Amin as its chairman.
The officials of OSOPND said Mr. Amin has worked in other government posts including a stint as a a presidential adviser before his appointment to head of OSOPND.
According to website information, Wafi Amin also has a restaurant in California.
Findings by TOLOnews indicate that the Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND) has been awarded more than 800 projects over the past two years but the authority has provided scant or conflicting information about its projects.
When asked for details by both TOLOnews and another journalist, Mujtaba Begzad, about specific projects, OSOPND sent two sets of documents to each--about the same projects--and the information didn't match up, and in some cases was missing:
“Projects were removed in some provinces. The name of the project was there but the amount (of its budget) was deleted. When we contacted them again, they said that they have saved money in projects. Or, they have not properly implemented some projects, or the projects were not implemented at all,” Begzad said.
Officials of the authority said their activities encompass 57 projects and so far they have invested Afs10 billion ($128 million) for current development initiatives.
According to information provided by the OSOPND, over the past two years, the authority undertook 835 construction and reconstruction programs under the 57 big projects. From the total, 113 programs have been completed.
OSOPND officials said that so far they have saved Afs3 billion through “proper” planning.
Other big projects under the OSOPND include construction of Machalgho Dam, construction of 100 buildings for mosques and prayer houses, a construction project in Pul-e-Charkhi prison, a project at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, and the construction of buildings for hostels in 10 provinces of the country.
“The projects are in the health sector, bus stops, and some of them are in the sports sector, which includes gymnasiums,” the media officer of the OSOPND, Hujjatullah Mujaddedi, said.
“He (Wafi Amin) had worked as a presidential adviser, and he worked in a field in which he had experience,” he added.
Critics said the establishment of such an authority will affect the activities of the private sector.
“International projects have been reduced, international aid has decreased, and the only source of help and finance of projects is through government projects. And if these projects are awarded to the Presidential Palace operational authority through a single source, it will limit the opportunity of free competition and investment of the private sector,” said Sayed Zaman Hashemi, CEO of Afghanistan's Chamber of Commerce.
“The projects that are given to OSOPND are those that other procurement authorities are not able to implement or manage--this institution (the OSOPND) is implementing these projects with a lower price compared to the private sector in Afghanistan,” said Ramin Ayaz, a media officer at the National Procurement Authority.
However, OSOPND officials say they have requested Afs28 billion ($358 million) to run their activities this year. Officials of the authority said that in the past two years they have provided permanent jobs to 26,000 people and short-term employment for one million individuals.