National Procurement Authority (NPA) officials said Saturday that their office will approve the purchase of fuel for Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, also known as DABS, the utility provider struggling to provide electric power after insurgents damaged pylons that brought electricity from Uzbekistan. The attack occurred on September 15, and Kabul and many provinces faced blackouts because of the damaged lines.
“The process phase for oil required by DABS has been completed and is ready to submit to the National Procurement Authority,” the NPA spokesman Ahmad Ramin Ayaz said.
The approval by the NPA may come as no surprise to many Afghans, who, in the midst of a nationwide power outage, read US Ambassador John Bass’ September 18 tweet (which was reported on by Afghan media):
“Hearing reports the National Procurement Authority won’t authorize fuel purchases for the power plant providing the only electricity in Kabul—even while the US & Resolute Support [US/NATO military mission] help Afghan security forces enable repairs to transmission lines. Could this be true?”
Two days later US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the US will be withholding funds planned for Afghanistan because of a lack of transparency and accountability.
Pompeo specifically mentioned the NPA in his statement, faulting it for its “lack of transparency,” and in the next sentence he revealed the US would be withholding $60 million of planned financial assistance from the Afghan government.
(Also, the Afghan Monitoring and Evaluation Committee will lose all US funding at the end of the calendar year. And 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.)
“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.
“It has caused the international community to no trust us; the procurement authority action looks like a medicine that doesn’t help us. Because aid was cut off, the international community mistrusts us and it is a blow to the nation, not the rulers,” said Naqibullah Hashimi, a former member of the Kabul provincial council.
“Reclaiming $160 million and not paying it back to the Afghan government does not help clean up the system, but it may be a strong warning to those government officials in Afghanistan to do their work transparently, quickly and effectively,” political analyst Dawar Nadi said.
Spokespeople for Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), say that their company asked the National Procurement Authority five months ago to purchase fuel.
“Because of urgency it needed to be purchased, but it is natural that the procurement authority has its own processes,” DABS spokesman Wahidullah Tawhidi said.