Ahady, WB official underline steps to check corruption
Kabul, October 31, 2007 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Finance Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady and World Bank Afghanistan Country Director Alastair McKechnie Wednesday outlined the measures being taken to prevent corruption in the national budget.
Ahady and McKechnie, addressing a joint press conference here, advocated focusing on preventive measures to curb corruption. It was important to probe, arrest, prosecute and punish corrupt officials, especially in sending strong signals to discourage corrupt behaviour, argued the minister.
"However, in these cases half the battle is already lost, as the corruption has already occurred. Over the longer run, prevention as part of an effective overall anti-corruption strategy can help stop corruption from happening in the first place," he commented.
Ahady added an effective anti-corruption strategy also included awareness-raising and accountability to the public as well as law enforcement detection, investigation, judicial and administrative processes.
Prevention involved reducing the scope for corruption and the incentives for government officials to engage in corrupt behaviour by putting in place, implementing and monitoring sound systems and clear processes, with appropriate checks before, during and after transactions, he explained.
Computerisation of government financial processes had facilitated external reporting and independent review, the minister claimed, saying these are both elements of transparency - a powerful constraint on corrupt acts. The preventive measures were closely linked with accountability, which further discouraged corrupt behaviour, he maintained.
For his part, McKechnie stressed an effective budget process and sound public financial management were essential steps to minimise corruption associated with the national budget. Starting from a low base, he acknowledged, Afghanistan had made major progress over the past five to six years in strengthening public financial management.
"Afghanistan is inherently a high-risk environment for managing public finances given increasing insecurity, narcotics production and sleaze. Yet the improvements in the Ministry of Finance systems, processes and capacity are reducing the risk of misappropriation of funds and corruption in budgetary transactions," he pointed out.
Ahady and McKechnie noted public financial management systems and processes and the associated benefits pertained only to the public spending channelled through the national budget. But most of aid, not part of the national budget, is not protected by these systems or accountable through the budget process in Afghanistan.
In this regard, Ahady and McKechnie encouraged donors to channel more of their assistance through the national budget, based on continuing improvements in budgeting and public financial management. The minister thanked the donors who channelled most of their assistance through the budget.