An eight-year effort to identify and root out corruption in the government of Afghanistan was largely window dressing, and cases of bribery and embezzlement amounting to as much as $100 million went unprosecuted, according to a new report by a U.S. government watchdog.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the High Office of Oversight, set up in 2008 to combat corruption in the Afghan government, was largely ineffective because high-level officials failed to cooperate. It quoted a HOO adviser as saying the office was essentially a ruse “designed to keep the international community happy while the government bought more time."
Related: US Has Given Nearly $1 Billion in Property to Afghanistan’s Government
Of 47 high-level government officials who left office between 2008 and 2014, only eight filed the required asset declaration forms, and even former President Hamid Karzai’s declarations were incomplete.
In 2009, while Karzai was still in office, he “declared cash in two German bank accounts, [but] did not provide the bank account numbers for verification purposes. Additionally, he said personal effects in the form of jewelry but did not give the owner’s name, the purchase cost, or the date of purchase,” the report said. “The President’s declaration stated that he had no fixed assets to declare—which would include an apartment, a house, land, business land, shops, a market, a company, or a vehicle….”
When Karzai left office in 2015 he again listed cash in a German bank “but no bank account number was given, and the source of the money was also left blank. Under personal effects, the President listed jewels but again provided no purchase date, no current value, and no source of income to purchase the asset. Again, no fixed assets, loans, or education expenses were listed,” the report said.
Related: How Millions of Taxpayer Dollars Were Wasted on Afghan Mining Projects
Karzai’s Second Vice President, Mohammad Karim Khalili, declared that he had no cash assets or any personal effects when he took office in 2009. “He declared a house but provided no information,” the report said, and on leaving office again reported no cash assets or vehicles.
SIGAR said enforcement efforts were further stymied by “the unwillingness of the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute corruption cases… referred [that] involved embezzlement, bribery, and forgery ranging from bribes of $1,000 to cases involving more than $100 million, and implicated ministers.” It was unable to find any cases that had been prosecuted.