The Afghanistan Builders Association (ABA) on Saturday strongly criticized the Afghan government--particularly the Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND)--for applying a ‘double standard' to the private sector in Afghanistan in the bidding process for contracts. The union said the move has had a negative impact on the activities of the private sector in the country.
ABA blamed the current situation on the National Unity Government (NUG) because following its inception in 2014 there has been a massive reduction in the number of construction companies. ANA says numbers went "from 1,200 down to 600" since 2014.
According to the ABA, the private companies are faced with tremendous problems and bureaucracy in the bidding process for contracts, while the situation for OSOPND remains very flexible.
“In most cases, they (OSOPND) complete a project and then make propaganda that they finished this project with less expenditure and less time, but there is a big difference between us and them (OSOPND). We face a lengthy procurement process where companies invest money and are asked for solid assurances, but OSOPND is never asked for these things,” said Sibghatullah Tamim, technical deputy head of ABA.
OSOPND, an Important Entity
“(OSOPND) is an important entity, an entity that has spent the resources of the Afghan government in the right way and you can see Darul Aman Palace, Jabal Saraj Palace,” said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani.
Private firms still need to wait for a year to be informed about their eligibility in the bidding process for securing the contracts, said the association, while the Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND) "easily gets the contracts."
Abdul Naseer Latifi has been associated with the construction sector for 20 years. But his company is now in decline. For several years Latifi, alongside his 20 professional colleagues, has managed to complete more than 70 projects successfully.
“They push you towards paperwork to make you tired-- what is the outcome of this? You need to have an increase every year, but it is going towards recession and collapse. I am collapsed,” said Abdul Naseer Latifi, owner of a private company in Kabul.
Latifi says that he submitted his documents for a security contract six months ago, however, still, he is not sure if he will receive a response confirming his participation in the bidding process.
Latifi said that his company lost $300,000 after completion of a government project because the government didn’t pay him on time.
“They will not lose anything here, but who is there to compensate for the loss! The prolongation of the projects, delaying the payment, not taking back the project on time, they do not take back the projects that are completed for months,” said Latifi.
Based on the statistics of the Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND), the entity managed to secure over 830 contracts in the past two years.
Anti-corruption organizations have insisted that the Operation and Support Office of the President for National Development (OSOPND) has achieved the projects by the order of President Ashraf Ghani.
What is OSOPND?
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 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.
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 the 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.