A £25 million pound sterling ($32 million USD) project by the British government has been suspended due to alleged "interference" by government officials into the activities of a non-government organization – Harakat Afghanistan Investment Climate Facility.
Members of Harakat board, including Karim Khuja, head of Roshan Telecommunication Company, Tamim Samiee, David Krechpton, Simon White and Sanzar Kakar resigned after posting a statement on the Harakat website.
“We have recently witnessed direct interference and pressure from external Afghan sources seeking to undermine our independence,” Harakat said on their website. “Continuing under this interference would mean compromising the values that we are so thoroughly committed to. Thus, we have no alternative other than to resign and to give Harakat partners the opportunity to re-evaluate.”
The board of Harakat recently appointed a new Chief Executive Officer - a move that was challenged by the transitional CEO Malalai Wassil, a former board member.
Her complaints allegedly led to the resignation of the board and reportedly triggered an investigation by a DFID - Department For International Development - assigned third party auditor.
The Swedish government is also a minor donor to Harakat.
“All members of the Harakat board have resigned because the independency of an independent organization is affected by a government official who sought to interfere,” said Qadeer Bahman, head of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce.
Commenting on this issue, the Finance Ministry spokesman Ajmal Hameed Abdulrahimzai denied interference in the activities of the organization by the MoF. However, he said the ministry would favor the appointment of a woman.
“The selection of the CEO of Harakat is the authority of the organization (Harakat); the Ministry of Finance does not have any role in it. And if we were asked to have a role in the appointment of the selection (of the organization), we would have supported one of an experienced and educated woman according to the policies of the Afghan government,” he said.
Harakat is in its second phase and the new funding was pledged last year to help boost businesses in Afghanistan and ease the environment for both domestic and international investments through reforms in procedures and legal affairs.
The UK Embassy in Kabul has admitted that it has suspended the funding after the resignation of the board members.
“Funding has been temporarily suspended to Harakat following the resignation of the members of the Board. DFID takes allegations and claims made against our delivery partners seriously and will thoroughly investigate,” the embassy said in an email sent to TOLOnews.
“The UK is committed to investment climate reform in Afghanistan, to facilitate private sector led growth. Harakat remains a key delivery partner for our Afghanistan Investment Climate Programme and we plan to resume activity as soon as possible.”
Commenting on the report, Sayed Jawed Andish, an investor, said: “Government has many other works to concentrate on. The organization (Harakat) is a good organization in Afghanistan and there is a need for a refocus on the resumption of its activities at a much needed time.”
Harakat Afghanistan Investment Climate Program is a non-profit organization working to make it easier to do business in Afghanistan. The organization works closely with government, civil society and private sector partners across four key areas.
Harakat follows on the successes of Harakat Afghanistan Investment Climate Facility, a program funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) from 2009-2015.