Lawmakers continue to question the government’s food distribution program that is already faced with corruption charges, saying that they see uncertainty around the funds allocated and spent for the scheme, which is aimed to help the poor.
The estimated budget for the fiscal year 1400 is over 473 billion Afs (nearly $6 billion), including 311 billion Afs ($4 billion) for the regular budget and 162 billion Afs ($2 billion) for the development budget.
The food distribution program known as National Dining Table Program has been removed from the 3rd draft but its estimated cost of 19 billion Afs ($244 million) has not been reduced from the total budget. This comes as the government has said that it has already spent $160 million of the fund for the program.
The third budget raft has removed the allocated fund for the program but has insisted on its implementation.
“When it comes to the food distribution program, the government did not receive aid for it, but it was allocated from the projects that were approved previously but were removed from the budget,” said Azim Kebarzani, member of the finance and budget committee of the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament.
The acting minister of finance, Khalid Payenda, meanwhile said the food distribution program requires some reforms.
“There should have been programs to overcome hunger and ensure food security. The food distribution program was aimed at this. There is a need for such programs, but some parts of it need reforms,” Payenda said.
A previous COVID-response food program was charged with widespread corruption.
Lawmakers said that the government has already started the food distribution program despite their opposition and that so far it has invested 12 billion Afs ($155 million) in this scheme.
Some Kabul residents said that the government should implement effective programs for those in need.
“Whether it was during the coronavirus pandemic or now, we haven’t seen any help from the government,” said Mahboobullah, a Kabul resident who is a vendor.
The food distribution program was among the 19 reasons for which the parliament rejected the budget draft twice.