On Friday the National Procurement Authority (NPA) responded to the US State Department’s claims of corruption by insisting that “all decisions on projects are made in the presence of national and international observers, as well as in the presence of the president and the Chief Executive.”
This statement came just one day after US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the US will be withholding funds from Afghanistan because of a lack of transparency and accountability. Funding for an energy infrastructure project in southern Afghanistan will continue, but not with the original $100 million earmarked, and not through the usual channels of disbursement. Another $60 million in planned assistance is now off the table. And theAfghan Monitoring and Evaluation Committee would lose all US funding at the end of the calendar year.
“Afghan government institutions and leaders must be transparent and accountable to the Afghan people. We stand against those who exploit their positions of power and influence to deprive the Afghan people of the benefits of foreign assistance,” Pompeo said in the statement.
The National Procurement Authority is led by President Ashraf Ghani, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Others with authority include Elham Hotak, head of the National Procurement Commission, and also Mohammad Humayun Qayumi, the Acting Finance Minister.
“We consider ourselves responsible to respond to all these concerns,” the NPA spokesman Ahmad Ramin Ayaz said.
The statement on corruption within the Afghan government comes as the government leaders – President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah – are both running for president in an election to be held at the end of this month.
Critics remain skeptical about the government’s will to fight corruption.
“I wish the US would have started this earlier--between 2001 to 2014. During that time billions of dollars were poured into Afghanistan from the international community, especially the United States, and they went into the pockets of Afghanistan’s political elites,” political affairs analyst Daud Nadi said.
The US decision on withholding the funds was supported by presidential candidate Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who addressed a campaign rally in Paktia province on Friday.
Hekmatyar said the international community’s aid has gone into the pocket of “thieves,” referring to some government officials.
“They might have cut off the aid to put pressure on the government to abandon its political disputes [with the US],” Hekmatyar said.