Covid-19

Government documents obtained by Kabul Now shows that a large amount of money allocated to fight against Covid-19 pandemic in Herat and Maidan Wardak provinces have been misappropriated by government authorities. Some documents leaked by Afghanistan’s Ombudsperson Office (AOO), Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC), and Supreme Audit Office show a large scale misappropriation of money in logistic contracts signed between government officials and individuals. Evidences suggest that some of medical equipment have been bought in costs higher than usual prices in market. The evidences also show that there are a list of irrelevant stuffs which have been bought for the fight against the outbreak of Covid-19 in Herat and Maidan Wardak. The documents show that contrary to due procedure of procurement regulation, money has been paid in advance, before delivery of medical stuffs and equipment. Documents show that the amount of money embezzled from Covid-19 fund is much higher than figure revealed by AOO.

This report was financially sponsored by the European Union (EU). The Daily Etilaat-e-Roz is responsible for contents of this story which does not necessarily reflect the EU’s opinion.

The Afghan government allocated a total of 6.7 billion afghanis to fight against coronavirus of which 400 million afghanis were paid for Herat while 20 million afghanis were allocated for Maidan Wardak.

Misappropriation of Covid-19 fund in Herat

Afghanistan’s Ombudsperson Office, having reviewed list of equipment bought by the contractor(s), introduced 11 government officials to the Attorney General’s Office on charges of purchasing equipment higher than usual princes in marker and buying irrelevant stuffs. These 11 people included Abdul Qayyum Rahimi, former governor of Herat, head and an employee of Public Health Department, representative of the province, three employees of Herat Mastufiat (revenue department), head of the Finance and Administration Department, director of Procurement Services and Inspector of the Finance and Administration Department, an employee of the Information and Culture Department, who was also a member of bids and procurement evaluation team and evaluation board.

The primary court of Anti-Corruption Justice Center investigated into the case and sentenced these men for charge of misuse and embezzlement from Covid-19 budget. Those sentenced by the ACJC court were Sayed Wahid Qatali, the governor for Herat, Head of Herat public health department, three members of the Provincial Council, an employee of revenue department, a doctor, who is a member of supervisory board, Corona Stock officer, controlling director, a member of Finance Department at governor’s office, representative of Asia Pharma, controlling director of revenue department, three members of delivery board, a member of evaluating board and chairman of Al-Sayed Afghan Company.

But, Abdul Hakim Tamana, head of public health department in Herat, claims that the investigations by the AOO and AGO are incomplete and they do not have substantiated documents to charge cases of corruption against them. He says investigation by the AOO and AGO are ill-conducted.

AOO’s finding shows that based on an official request of public health department of Herat, dated March 29, and on the basis of a directive, issued on March 30, by the then Herat governor, Abdul Qayum Rahimi, purchase of a Siemens 32 CT scan Machine set off from a single source while the contract was officially bidden on April 09, after the current Herat governor, Abdul Wahid Qatali, took office.

A Siemens 32 CT scan Machine, public health department of Herat claims, has been bought in 30,800,000 afghanis on April 29 while the AOO underlines that the estimated price of the machine is 11,550,000 afghanis—which shows a huge difference of eight times higher than the actual price in the market.

The AOO accuses Abdul Qayum Rahimi, head of public health department of Herat along with two staffs from revenue department, of embezzlement. The primary court of ACJC also introduced Abdul Qayum Rahimi to court for further investigation.

What is oblivious, however, is a time gap between issuance date, procurement of a CT scan machine, and purchase date of it. The directive to buy the machine was approved by Mr. Rahimi while it was procured by the time Qatali was in office.

According to AGO, an investigation conducted by the AOO shows that Mr. Rahimi does not have hand in purchase, biding and procurement of the three items.

On September 12, AGO studied documents related to procurement of a CT scan machine, bought on April 20, and announced that there were huge gap between the amount paid for the machine (30,800,000 afghanis) and market rate (12,856,083 afghanis).

There are gap between times of transferring money and receiving the machine: on May 16, 2020, 27,104,000 afghanis were transferred to the company’s account, with a 10 percent tax deducted and on July 15, Asia Pharma handed over the machine to local authorities. But accounts by custom authorities at Kabul airport tell a different tale. They say the machine arrived in Kabul on August 06 and it was sent to Herat on August 07—after paying 156,700 USD as tax.

Finding shows that on September 10 the machine was handed over to a state-run hospital in Herat but it remains out of operation due to absence of a trained medical worker. Health authorities, however, claim that the CT scan machine is in operation.

Government documents obtained by Kabul Now shows that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has paid 185,700 USD, which is equaling nearly 14,298,900 afghanis, to purchase six 64- Slice System Siemens Ct Scan machines while Herat officials have purchased one 32-Slice System Siemens Ct Scan machine in 30,800,000 afghanis.

Purchase documents of 64- Slice System Siemens Ct Scan

Abdul Wahid Qatali, the governor of Herat, in response to AGO’s investigative officer, has said he has provided the necessary purchasing documents to officials. He said his office was obliged to process the payment of the machine as per contract.

According to AGO, Abdul Wahid Qatali, head of public health department, four members of supervisory committee, three members of monitoring and evaluation board, and two officials of the company have been involved in spending 12,856,083 afghanis from Covid19 budget.

Afghanistan’s penal code states that anyone caught gaining illegal benefit from government contract, tax, and custom revenue will be sentenced to imprisonment.

The AGO says that Abdul Wahid Qatali, head of public health department, and 19 officials of the Provincial Council, monitoring and evaluation board, officials from revenue department, examination board, seller company, delivery team, and an officer who worked in Covid-19 facility supply, have been involved in embezzlement of 27,104,000 afghanis.

Abdul Hakim Tamana, however, calls AGO’s finding as baseless, saying that such an investigation should be conducted by an expert. “The CT scan machine we bought is 32 Slice which can be changed to 64 Slice—it is the only machine imported in Afghanistan. There might be similar machines [available] in the market of the country, they are second hand imported from other countries, which might not be original,” he said.

The AGO, however, says that investigative officer has taken price quotation from market in due process.

Documents obtained by Kabul Now show that officials have bought equipment for Herat governor’s media office are irrelevant to Covid-19 medical equipment. The items bought include 16 TV sets, 11 cameras, 16 laptops, two printers, 10 chairs, one table, 50 boxes of tiles, and 50 boxes of dish-washing detergent worth of 2,796,000 afghanis.

AOO’s finding suggests that prices of equipment listed are much higher than actual rates in market. For example, a camera set has been bought 227,000 afghanis higher than market rate—taking price quotation on August 22.

Abdul Qayum Rahimi, head of finance and admin department, director of procurement and services, chief financial officer and inspector of the finance and admin department, and three members of equipment board have been accused of being involved in misappropriation. They have been introduced to AGO.

AGO’s finding, however, shows that authorities, including Herat governor, have bought those equipment which are necessary for the fight against Covid-19 and therefore it found no “specific reason” to a lawsuit against those who were accused of embezzlement by the AOO.

Findings by AOO, however, suggest that there are a huge gap—19,288,000 afghanis—between the amounts of money paid to purchase six items of medical equipment and market rate. According to the AOO, the public health department in Herat on April 20 offered procurement of the equipment, amounting 30 million afghanis from a single source but AOO says the amount of money paid for these equipment is much higher than actual rate available in the market. For example, a digital X-ray machine has been purchased worth of 3,510,000 afghanis while an estimated rate of such a machine in the market was 2,079,000 afghanis— 1,431,000 afghanis higher than market rate.

This table suggests difference between purchased rates and market rates of six medical items taken by the AOO

The AOO claims that head of public health department, three members of the evaluation board, and members of the procurement evaluation board were suspects of embezzling.

On April 20, the Herat governor approved a proposal given by public health department for procurement of six items of medical equipment worth of 30 million afghanis. On May 05, the private company delivered these equipment health center. On May 14, 29,400,000 afghanis, with a ten percent tax deducted, was deposited to supplier’s account.

An investigation by the AGO indicates that 22,389,360 afghanis have been paid to purchase some equipment while quotation taken by the AOO shows that the total payment which must have been paid were amounting to 19,288,000 afghanis by the time the equipment were purchased.

The AOO said that the governor of Herat, head of public health department, three members of the evaluation committee, and head of the supplier company were suspected for embezzlement and they were introduced to AGO.

But Abdul Hakim Tamana, head of public health department in Herat, in a statement said that representatives of public health department, members of evaluation committee, some medical experts and members of civil society were involved in taking price quotation. Al Sayed Company won the bidding offer for it offered the fairest price, he said.

Government documents obtained by Kabul Now suggest an amount of 50, 252, 932 afghanis—from Covid-19 budget—have been paid to contractors in advance, before the equipment supply to clients.

Report published by AOO says its investigative officers, in the presence of Ezmaria Hasin, head of Herat Covid-19 response, have inspected medical store and found seven items of medical equipment worth of 927,792 afghanis, bought from Hasin Samim Limited Company, as officials claimed, were not yet delivered by the company and 14 items of medical equipment, worth of 14,675,140, were missing by the day they visited the store.

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) says that its findings indicate that, as per contract, the supplier company was obliged to deliver the equipment by May 08, but it has delivered the equipment on May 20, and on May 28. A total of 37,018,753 afghanis were transferred to account number of company.

Finding by the SAO suggests that Al Sayed Company was obliged to deliver 20 checkup machines, each worth of 3,850,000 afghanis, by June 27, but despite the fact that the company failed to deliver the machine in due time the examination board has reported that it had received the machines. On May 05, officials at examination board, as it is shown in Form M07, remarked that the machines were received by equipment office—allowing a total amount of 30 million afghanis to be transferred to company’s bank account.

As per account by the SAO, the supplier company, according to contract signed between the parties, was bound to deliver CT scan machine by June 30, but on July 01, the supervising committee that visited the hospital reported that there was no CT scan machine available in the hospital’s store. According to SAO’s finding, on May 05, the authorities allowed 30,800,000 afghanis to be transferred to bank account of the supplier company. On July 16, the public health department reported that it received the CT scan machine.

In response to SAO, the public health department and the evaluation board said that as procuring CT scan machine was an urgent matter, they, under oral directive by Herat governor, paid part of the amount in advance.

Misappropriation of Covid-19 fund in Maidan Wardak 

On August 25, the AOO reported to AGO that finding showed as many as 12 local authorities in Maidan Wardak were suspected to have misappropriated Covid-19 budget. On October 24, the Anti-Corruption Justice Center, having conducted an investigation into Maidan Wardak case, identified as many as 17 local officials as suspects and referred them to the AGO.

Finding by the AOO shows that local officials including former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, three employees of public health department, two employees of revenue department, two employees of national security directorate, two employees of prosecutor office, an employee of governor office, who was also a member of bidding board, procurement committee and evaluation board, have been involved in misappropriation of Covid-19 fund allocated for the fight against coronavirus in Maidan Wardak. The finding suggests that a number of medical equipment have been bought much higher than actual rate in market.

The ACJC identified the suspects as the former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, general manager of revenue department, administrative officer, procurement manager, ambulance driver, member of Provincial Council, an employee of municipal, head of Wardak ambulance, revenue department, two employees of national security directorate, head of Milad Gurbat Company, Head of Shaker Ahmadzai Company, a member of civil society and a journalist.

The suspects have been released on bail, according to report.

The AOO reported that on April 11, the governor of Maidan Wardak approved procurement of 11 items of medical equipment, worth 9,882,890 afghanis, proposed by finance and admin department. All 11 items of equipment were bought from Shaker Ahmadzai Company at higher price than the usual market rate.

On April 12, as documents show, 11 items were bought in 9,188,090 afghanis but quotation price taken by the AOO on August 17, shows a huge gap—of nearly five million afghanis—between the amount paid and the usual rate in market.

According to documents provided by National Procurement Authority (NPA), two DUS60 ultrasound machines were bought at 478,170 afghanis, a price which is much higher than usual rate in market.

Around 10 million afghanis paid for purchasing 11 medical equipment

The former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, two employees of revenue department, one employee of prosecutor office, one staff of National Directorate of Security, two employees of public health department, and one employee of governor’s office, and members of the procurement committee were introduced to AGO in connection with this case.

In response to inquiry by the AGO, the suspected officials from Maidan Wardak said the prices of medical equipment bought during the Covid-19 outbreak, were higher but four months later quotation prices taken by the AOO show a huge difference. AOO investigative officer says they took quotation prices with all reservations taken on notice. They blame local officials of buying some stuffs which are completely irrelevant to the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

This table suggests difference between market rates taken by the AOO and purchased rates of seven items out of 11 equipment bought by local officials

As sample, quotation prices taken for nine of these items, out of 11 bought on September 24, shows a total difference of 315,690 afghanis. Report by the AOO suggests that difference between the amount paid and usual rate in market is nearly five million afghanis.

In connection with this case, the ACJC identified five suspects including former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, a member of Provincial Council, two local officials, and head of Shaker Ahmadzai Company and introduced them to the AGO.

Finding by the AOO indicates that on April 11, under proposal by head of finance and admin department, approved by the then governor, seven food items including flour, cooking oil, rice, tea, sugar, salt, and chickpeas, worth of 5,850,000 afghanis, were bought from Milad Gurbat Company but quotation prices taken by the AOO on August 17, shows a difference of 480,000 afghanis.

Seven food items bought at a total price of nearly six million afghanis

In connection with this case, the former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, a staff of National Security, an employee of public health department, an employee of revenue department, an official from the governor’s office, and an employee at prosecutor office were introduced to AGO by the AOO.

Quotation price taken by the ACJC on Sept 28, shows a huge gap—535,950 afghanis—between the amounts paid and usual rate in market.

In connection with this case, the ACJC identified former governor of Maidan Wardak, head of finance and admin department, a member of Provincial Council, four local officials and head of Milad Gurbat Company as suspects and introduced them to the AGO.

Findings show that local authorities in Maidan Wardak have misappropriated a large amount of money from the 20 million afghanis allocated for the province in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings by the ACJC shows that local authorities in Maidan Wardak have embezzled a total of 851,640 afghanis in collaboration with Shakir Ahmadzai and Milad Gurbat Companies.

The ACJC calls on the AGO to punish the suspects according to penal code.

The then governor of Maidan Wardak, who has been accused of embezzlement from Covid-19 emergency budget, in response to court’s inquiry, said he and his colleagues had acted as guided by government procedure and they bought nothing irrelevant for campaign against Covid-19 pandemic.

Head of finance and admin department, in response to prosecutor’s inquiry, said that they contracted procurement of the equipment in lowest prices with Shakir Ahmadzai Company.

Two members of National Directorate of Security, who were members of evaluation and bidding board, said that details of procurement by the governor’s office was shared with the National Directorate of Security on April 15 but the equipment were purchased on April 09, 12 and 13. They claim that they were asked to sign procurement document on April 14 while equipment were bought on April 09, 12 and 13.

As claimed by local officials, 500,000 afghanis, AOO reports, were spent for purpose of raising awareness but documents show that 300,000 afghanis were spent for awareness campaign—a total of 200,000 are missing.

But the suspects claim that they signed a contract, worth 300,000 afghanis, with the media for raising awareness, another 145,000 afghanis were spent to buy equipment such as mask, gloves, and soaps, and 50,000 afghanis were spent on printing banners and travel costs of civil society representatives.

In another case investigated by the AOO, documents presented to National Procurement Authority does not match the reports by the Ombudsperson Office. According to reports sent to the National Procurement Authority by Maidan Wardak local officials, two million afghanis were spent on purchasing medical equipment for hospitals in eight districts of the province. However, no purchased documents for these equipment were attached with the reports. On July 10, the officials for the province reported that there were no contracts between the seller company and the buyers, and that there were many contradictions between the reports sent to National Procurement Authority and the report by finance procurement office sent to the AOO on July 23.

There are many contradictory documents about Covid-19 fund spent in Maidan Wardak.

Some local authorities at district level, including district governor of Behsoud, claim that they have not received any financial assistance and food aid during the outbreak of Covid-19 in the province.

Some cases of contracts signed between the local authorities and supplier company have not been investigated completely by the AGO.

Esmatullah Asem, a member of Maidan Wardak Provincial Council, who has been accused by the AGO, claims that investigation by the court on Covid-19 fund in Maidan Wardak is incomplete. “I was the first who stood against corruption and misappropriation of Covid-19 budget, but my name was put in the list of suspects,” Mr. Asem said.

On July 12, Mr. Asem leaked documents to media which showed that some medical equipment were bought in higher prices than usual rate in market.

He told Kabul Now that the amount of money embezzled from Covid-19 fund in Maidan Wardak is much higher than figure revealed by the AOO.

This report has been developed by Etilaatroz’s  Esmatullah Soroush and Aber Shayagan and translated by Fatema Hosseini.

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