Amid reports of a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Herat in western Afghanistan, the government is facing mounting criticism over alleged misuse of international fund to battle the pandemic in the country.
A Kabul-based anti-corruption organization, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), on Friday said the government is not ready to provide the details of the money it spent for combating the pandemic.
“The Afghan government has not been accountable in spending COVID-19 budget, in many cases, either they provided us incomplete information or refrained from providing details about it,” said Sayed Ikram Afzali, the head of IWA.
The Ministry of Finance said the institutions that were assigned to fight COVID-19 have not reported back about the scale and area of the fund spending.
“The overall money provided by international donors and the budget that was allocated by the government for fighting COVID-19 are estimated to 19.8 billion Afghanis,” said Shamroz Khan Masjidi, spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.
“The commitment remains when it comes to the spending and allocation of the funds provided to us by the international community to fight the coronavirus,” said Mohammad Hedayat, media adviser to First Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh.
The Attorney General's Office said that some cases of corruption against former and current officials of the Ministry of Public Health and a hospital officials in some provinces have been investigated.
“Investigation of the cases related to four provinces has been done. Our colleagues are in the process of concluding them. They will soon issue their verdicts on it,” said Jamshid Rasouli, a spokesman for th Attorney General’s Office.
Back in August, former public health minister Ferozuddin Feroz, his two former deputies Mamosai Zewar and Shafiq Shahim and the public health deputy minister Wahid Majroh have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office on corruption charges.
They were charged with misuse of authority and embezzling from the COVID-19 response fund, according to the inspector general’s office.
The COVID-19 response in Afghanistan has been accompanied by many corruption charges. The embezzlement of relief funds and the selling of ventilators and other medical equipment have occurred alongside the spread of COVID-19.
“A lack of transparency in the spending of the international community's assistance has declined public trust in the government,” said Iraj Faqiri, an economist in Kabul.
Latest COVID-19 figures in Afghanistan:
The Ministry of Public Health on Friday reported 77 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 447 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile in the western province of Herat, the Directorate of Public Health reported 120 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 270 samples tested on Wednesday and Thursday. The first case of COVID-19 in Afghanistan was reported in Herat in February. This is the first time the local officials are reporting high number of cases in a day.
The ministry also reported two death from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
So far, 113,839 samples have been tested in government centers and there are 5,163 known active COVID-19 cases in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Public Health.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 39,639, the number of total reported deaths is 1,472, and the total number of recoveries is 33,058.
The new cases were reported in Herat (60), Kabul (9), Takhar (5) and Kunduz (1), Baghlan (1) and Logar (1) provinces.