Blurred lines in contingency codes; billions of afghanis ill-spent

A review of audit report about final budget statements – officially known as Qatia accounts – shows that, contrary to the provisions of the budget expenditure plan, millions of afghanis were paid as salaries and bonus payments for 1,800 newly created government posts. According to the report, President Ghani approved the disbursements from the country’s all-time controversial contingency code, officially titled as 91 policy code.

According to the audit report released by the Supreme Audit Office (SAO), creation of more than 800 posts in the General Directorate of Administrative Office of the President (AOP), Office of the President, and the Directorate for Protection and Security of the state’s high ranking officials is contrary to the provisions of budget expenditure plan. The posts were created upon requests of different government institutions and approved by presidential decrees with their allocated budgets.

In separate decrees, the President has created 697 posts at the Directorate for Protection and Security only to ensure security of high-ranking government officials. He has allocated more than 37,800,000 afghanis from 91 policy code to purchase telecommunication equipment for these posts.

The documents present that, an ‘ombudsperson’ position has been created following a proposal made by chairwoman of Afghanistan Ombudsperson Office, Ghazal Haress, which was approved by the President’s 1553 decree issued on September 04, 2019. Nearly 1,600,000 afghanis was withdrawn from the 91 contingency code and allocated for the post. The monthly salary for this position is 250,000 afghanis and 100,000 afghanis are allocated for office expense and house rents. In addition to this, another position titled ‘deputy of ombudsperson’s office’ was created following the presidential decree 1902 issued on October 13, 2019, with a monthly salary of 120,000 afghanis. A total of 432,000 afghanis was allocated as bonus payment for this position from the contingency fund.

The President has appropriated more than 43,300,000 afghanis, from the 91 policy code, to 40 additional positions created at office of his special assistant via presidential decree (2788) issued on February 20, 2019.

A large number of the new positions were created at the offices of senior advisors to the President. For example, according to decree number 60 issued on April 03, 2019, the President has allocated about 24,500,000 afghanis from the 91 policy code to cover nine-month salaries and bonus payments of 28 newly created posts at Office of the Senior Adviser on Public and Strategic Affairs.

Eight new positions were created at the office of the President’s advisor on cultural affairs. President Ghani has approved withdrawal of more than 3,500,000 afghanis from 91 policy code to cover salary and bonus payments for these positions.

Following the presidential decree (277) issued on May 12, 2019, more than 2,990,000 afghanis has been spent to pay eight-month salary of additional posts created at the office of the President’s advisor on public and social affairs. In another case, more than 2,700,000 afghanis was deducted from the policy code to pay seven-month salary of the newly employed staffs at the advisor’s office, following presidential decree (585) issued on May 25, 2019.

In presidential decree (2961) issued on March 12, 2019, President Ghani approved nearly 20,250,000 afghanis from 91 policy code to cover salary and bonus payments of offices of the President’s advisors. Offices of the advisors where the money has been poured in are not, however, clearly specified.

In decree (728) issued on June 09, 2019, President has allocated more than 2,680,000 afghanis from the policy code for salaries of the newly hired at the office of President’s advisor’s on commercial affairs. Further, in decree (729) issued on the same date, more than 7,100,000 afghanis has been debited to pay salaries and bonus payments of 15 newly established positions at offices of four President’s advisors. The advisors are not specified in the SAO’s audit report.

Additional positions are mostly created at offices of the President’s advisors and the General Directorate of the Administrative Office of the President. The SAO reported that the creation of these positions is contrary to Article 46 of the budget expenditure plan. According to the article, the government institutions are obliged to complete their organization teams in accordance with the nation budget document approved by the Parliament and refrain creating any additional positions during the year. The article stipulates that the approved structures in the budget document are final. Article 29 of the budget expenditure plan also states that “any law or regulation which increases the salaries and bonus payments of employees and military officials, or financial consumptions that are in contradiction with finalized budget document would not be executed.”

According to the report, during 2019, more than one thousand additional posts have been created in the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs. The Ministry of Finance did not include these positions in the mid-year review of the national budget plan despite being mandatory to do so.

According to the SAO’s report, though the additional posts were not included in the mid-year review of the budget document, the salaries for the posts were paid from debits made on the 91 policy code. This is while that the finance ministry allocated 158 million afghanis for the salary and bonus payments of staff workers at Ghori cement factory in the mid-year review and did not include any additional positions in the review to be approved by the parliament.

Budget spending of 91 policy code is in the President’s authority. Misappropriations of 91 policy code during the 1397 fiscal year created a lot of controversies. MPs and oversight bodies called for restrictions on how the budget should be allocated and how it should be spent. Experts believe that this code is misused under the name of ‘policy’. Last year, a number of MPs criticized performance of the President regarding the spending of budget while reviewing the final document of 2018/1397. The report on government’s annual budget spending—Qatia accounts—is currently under review by the Finance and Budget Commission of the Parliament. This year, the outcome of the review of the final document at parliament is expected to be as controversial as last year.

In response to the SAO, the Ministry of Finance says that the newly created positions was approved by the President and its legal process has completed. However, the budget expenditure plan obliges all government institutions not to create additional posts that require more than the budget they have been allocated for them in the national budget document, unless requesting to do so in the mid-year review of the budget document.

In addition, a number of agencies, including the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, have not provided the required information to the Supreme Audit Office despite repeated requests made by the Office. This is while the report on the review of the final document of 2018/1397 also showed that more than two thousand new posts were created illegally at 13 government institutions in that fiscal year.

The number of vacancies created are as follows:

29 posts in Administrative Office of the President, 114 posts in the Ministry of Education, 159 posts in the Ministry of Finance, 18 posts in the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, 435 posts in the Attorney General’s Office, 250 posts at the office of National Statistics and Information Authority, 38 posts in the Supreme Audit Office, 89 posts at the Supreme Court, 264 posts in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Oil and Gas Department, 85 posts in Technical and Vocational Department of the Ministry of Education, 733 posts in Population Registration Department.

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