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Afghanistan

Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process (AF0001)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Afghanistan Action Plan 2017-2019

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: High Inspection Office

Support Institution(s): Public Accounting Commission at Lower House and World Bank, Civil society organizations and media

Policy Areas

Anti-Corruption, Anti-Corruption Institutions, Capacity Building, Media & Telecommunications, Public Participation, Social Accountability

IRM Review

IRM Report: Afghanistan Implementation Report 2017-2019, Afghanistan Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?: Lack of public participation in the inspection processes has lowered transparency, accountability and public access to information, and undermined public oversight over performance of governmental entities. This situation may pave the ground for corruption, challenging delivery of public services. In absence of public oversight over inspection processes, there are chances that facts are concealed based on conspiracy and compromise between inspectors and authorities under inspection. This eventually increases corruption and undermines public service delivery.; What is the commitment?: High Inspection Office has previously developed a mechanism for public partnership in the inspection process without the involvement of media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). However, as demanded by CSOs in the consultative meetings of Open Governance Partnership-Afghanistan, the office committed to revising, finalizing and implementing the mentioned mechanism in partnership with CSOs. This mechanism has not been implemented as civil society organizations and media were not involved in its formulation. Revision of the mechanism with the participation of civil society organizations and media will enrich the mechanism and facilitates its implementation. It is expected that implementation of this mechanism ensure public oversight over inspection process, enhancing transparency and accountability in public service delivery to minimize chances of corruption.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: Revision and implementation of this mechanism would enable CSOs and media to participate in the process. Once the commitment is implemented, the mentioned organizations will become part of the process through having oversight over government performance. Additionally, with the implementation of this commitment, training courses will be held for a number of representatives from CSOs and media on their part in the joint inspection process. These courses will enhance their capacities to actively participate in the joint inspection processes during and after the implementation of the mechanism in question. Implementation of this commitment is expected to prevent inspectors and authorities under inspection from any compromise over concealing facts in major cases. This will eventually enhance transparency and accountability in public service through restricting chances of corruption.; Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?: This commitment has relevancy with different values of Open Government Partnership. First, once put into practice, the mentioned mechanism will ensure public participation in inspection processes. Second, engagement of CSOs and media in the inspection processes will result in enhanced transparency and accountability in government’s activities.; Additional information: The necessary fund for implementing this commitment is provided through a World Bank-supported project in Afghanistan, i.e. Fiscal Support Performance (FSP), for a period of four years. This commitment is consistent with Afghanistan Peace and Development Framework and IP-ARTF as one of the benchmarks of World Bank

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. Revising and Implementing the Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“High Inspection Office has previously developed a mechanism for public partnership in the inspection process without the involvement of media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). However, as demanded by CSOs in the consultative meetings of Open Governance Partnership-Afghanistan, the office committed to revising, finalizing and implementing the mentioned mechanism in partnership with CSOs.

This mechanism has not been implemented as civil society organizations and media were not involved in its formulation. Revision of the mechanism with the participation of civil society organizations and media will enrich the mechanism and facilitates its implementation. It is expected that implementation of this mechanism ensure public oversight over inspection process, enhancing transparency and accountability in public service delivery to minimize chances of corruption.”

Milestone activities and verifiable deliverables
  • Holding three joint meetings with CSOs and media in order to revise, scrutinize and approve the mechanism of public partnership in the inspection process.
  • One final publication reflecting civil society and media perspectives, suggestions, recommendations and final decisions on the scrutinized inspection process accessible.
  • Essential administrative structures established by High Inspection Office (HIO). 3 training sessions conducted on the implementation of the mechanism by HIO for their employees who will be upholding the structures established.
  • Holding two awareness-raising seminars on issues related to the CSOs and media participation in the inspection processes. Make a compilation of the awareness-raising seminars in one video available online
  • Formulating an Authorities Inspection Plan based on a risk assessment practice both of which are conducted with the participation of CSOs and media according to public partnership mechanism
  • Conduct 7 inspections based on the Authorities Inspection Plan

Start Date:  January 2018

End Date:  August 2019

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan National Action Plan, see:: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/commitment/01-mechanism-of-public-partnership-inspection-process

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to revise and implement the Citizens’ Participation Mechanism [1] in the inspection process of auditing government finances. It aims for this process to be conducted together with CSOs and media to ensure transparency and accountability of public finances.

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) [2] is the highest authority in the country that controls and audits the finances of the central and state governments in relation to their resources and expenditures. The Law on the Supreme Audit Office (2013) establishes responsibilities of the SAO as the principal guarantor of financial transparency of state agencies as well as control and oversight of such resources. [3] In 2016, the SAO developed a framework for public participation of auditing government finances, but did not involve CSOs and the media in developing that process. [4]

The commitment is relevant for OGP value of civic participation as it opens up opportunities for CSOs and the media to take part in formulating the Authorities Inspection Plan and participating in audits of public finances. The Authorities Inspection Plan covers seven audit performances that government officials together with CSOs and media will perform. [5] In addition, through its website, SAO intends to give the public the opportunity to express views and concerns on public audits. The commitment aims to raise public awareness on the inspection process and a compilation of the awareness raising seminars will become available online in a video to reach wider population with the information on how to participate in the public oversight of the inspection process and is thus relevant to the OGP value of access to information.

This is the first time SAO has committed to involve civil society and media in the auditing process, which is a commendable development. Afghanistan provides few opportunities for the public to engage in budget or auditing process, scoring 15 out of 100, where scoring about 60 is considered to provide adequate opportunities for the public to participate. [6] Additionally, according to the World Bank’s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance, Afghan ministries and agencies do not solicit comments on proposed regulations from the general public. [7] While some details of various elements (mandate and composition of the proposed administrative structure within SAO) could be clearer, if fully implemented, this commitment could change the practice of conducting audits in a more participatory and accountable way. Given the low baselines for public participation and government engaging civil society in policy making in Afghanistan, this commitment could have a transformative potential impact as it aims to engage CSOs in performing audits with an expansive scope of applicable public sectors that could include the Parliament, the Ministries, the President’s Office, the public construction section and so on. [8]

Next steps

This commitment represents an important undertaking for making the audit processes participatory and more accountable. The IRM researcher recommends continuing this commitment in the next action plan and to consider the following elements for strengthening it:

  • A future commitment could more clearly articulate what happens beyond the public’s involvement in the audit inspection process. An accountability mechanism and penalties for noncompliance could be stipulated where the public could compel the government to respond with a change in practice to complaints or recommendations received.
  • As per CSOs’ suggestion, a complementary action to take outside the framework of OGP could be to develop a policy and mechanism for social audit. Social audit refers to the auditing process, lead by CSOs and the public, of government’s public plans and performances, which have direct implication on citizens’ lives. [9]
[1] High Inspection Office (2018). Citizens’ Participation Mechanism in the Inspection Process. Accessed on October 8, 2018, from http://sao.gov.af/Content/files/میکانیزم%20مشارکت%20عامه%20در%20روند%20تفتیش.pdf
[2] Although at the time of the drafting of the action plan this commitment fell under the leadership of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC), since February 2018, HOOAC has merged with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). This commitment therefore currently falls under the mandate of the Supreme Audit Office (SAO).
[3] High Inspection Office. (2013). Law of the High Inspection Office (in Dari and Pashto). Accessed on October 8, 2018, from http://sao.gov.af/Content/files/Pocket%20Book.pdf
[4] Personal interview, Director of Policy and Planning, Supreme Audit Office, 27 October 2018, Kabul.
[5] Information on the Authorities Inspection Plan was communicated to the IRM researcher via e-mail, dated 28 January 2019, by the government official who is in charge of implementing this commitment.
[7] Rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/Afghanistan#
[8] Personal interview, Director of Policy and Planning, Supreme Audit Office, 27 October 2018, Kabul.
[9] Annex B. (n.d.). Analysis and critique of the commitments prepared by the Secretariat. (This document was made available to the IRM researcher by Integrity Watch Afghanistan).

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1. Revising and Implementing the Mechanism of Public Partnership in the Inspection Process

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan

“High Inspection Office has previously developed a mechanism for public partnership in the inspection process without the involvement of media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). However, as demanded by CSOs in the consultative meetings of Open Governance Partnership-Afghanistan, the office committed to revising, finalizing and implementing the mentioned mechanism in partnership with CSOs.

“This mechanism has not been implemented as civil society organizations and media were not involved in its formulation. Revision of the mechanism with the participation of civil society organizations and media will enrich the mechanism and facilitates its implementation. It is expected that implementation of this mechanism ensure public oversight over inspection process, enhancing transparency and accountability in public service delivery to minimize chances of corruption.”

Milestones:

  • Holding three joint meetings with CSOs and media in order to revise, scrutinize and approve the mechanism of public partnership in the inspection process.
  • One final publication reflecting civil society and media perspectives, suggestions, recommendations and final decisions on the scrutinized inspection process accessible.
  • Essential administrative structures established by High Inspection Office (HIO). 3 training sessions conducted on the implementation of the mechanism by HIO for their employees who will be upholding the structures established.
  • Holding two awareness-raising seminars on issues related to the CSOs and media participation in the inspection processes. Make a compilation of the awareness-raising seminars in one video available online
  • Formulating an Authorities Inspection Plan based on a risk assessment practice both of which are conducted with the participation of CSOs and media according to public partnership mechanism
  • Conduct 7 inspections based on the Authorities Inspection Plan

Editorial Note: This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text from the Afghanistan national action plan see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-action-plan-2017-2019/

IRM Design Report Assessment

IRM Implementation Report Assessment

●       Verifiable: Yes

●       Relevant: Yes

Access to Information

Civic Participation

●       Potential impact: Transformative

●        Completion: Substantial

●        Did it Open Government? Marginal

This commitment aimed to include civil society organizations (CSOs) and the media in audit inspections of government finances through a Citizens’ Participation Mechanism. [1] Although the government established the mechanism in 2016, the 2013 Law on the Supreme Audit Office (SAO) [2] did not contain provisions for CSO or media participation. The commitment sought to open the audit process, formulate an Authorities Inspection Plan, and conduct seven inspections with the participation of CSOs and the media. [3]

This commitment was substantially complete at the end of the implementation period. Most of the activities and milestones listed in the action plan have been achieved. The SAO held two awareness-raising workshops and four consultative seminars with CSOs. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with five CSOs that would participate in formulating an inspection plan for auditing government finances in seven public sites. CSOs selected which five would participate, a decision based on CSOs’ areas of competency and interest in the process. [4]

During the consultative seminars and workshops, the participating CSOs drafted and finalized the Citizens’ Participation Mechanism in the Inspection Process. The document’s eight chapters and 35 articles discuss mechanisms for citizen participation and collaboration between government and CSOs. [5] During the implementation period, the Ministry of Public Works closed, so related responsibilities were transferred to the Ministry of Transport under Yama Yari, the former minister of public works. The government published seven audit reports online in 2019. However, only the audit of the Teachers’ Training Program explicitly mentions that CSOs participated in the audit process. [6]

During commitment implementation, the government and the five CSOs involved maintained a good working relationship. Further, three OGP Afghanistan financial transparency specialists monitored the implementation process and provided regular support. [7] This arrangement contributed to the largely successful implementation of this commitment. The government expected the CSOs to be continuously present throughout the six-month audit process and to travel to provinces for on-site auditing purposes. A representative from Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) noted that CSOs possessed neither human nor financial resources to dispatch a staff member on a regular basis for this purpose. [8] Additionally, no media organization actively participated in the audit process. [9]

Given capacity constraints, CSOs decided to participate in inspections once a month and present key findings to the SAO. [10] In its inspection of one of the seven audit projects—the Teachers’ Training Program at the Ministry of Education—IWA discovered and reported a discrepancy of 700 AFN (approximately 9 USD) in the amount allocated per teacher. [11] However, the SAO has not followed up on this finding, leaving some CSOs to question its commitment and capacity to engage in effective oversight. [12] According to Article 28 of the Mechanism, the Directorate of Citizens’ Participation at SAO is responsible for following up on CSOs’ findings with the relevant government offices. Additionally, CSOs can also follow up with SAO on their audit findings of a site, and citizens at large can seek information. [13]

The SAO did not produce and publish on its website the proposed awareness-raising video, one of the commitment’s activities. According to the SAO’s director of public participation in the auditing process, a video was not necessary, because they discussed issues with CSOs in the monthly meetings. [14]

By the end of the implementation period, this commitment resulted in marginal improvements in civil society participation in the auditing process. This commitment enabled civil society to participate in public financial auditing for the first time and to view previously inaccessible public financial information. Importantly, it led to changes in the mindset of government officials to open up the process to citizens’ and CSOs’ participation. [15]

However, this commitment was limited in scope, as only five CSOs participated in auditing seven projects. CSOs could not travel to project sites in the field, due to capacity and security constraints. Moreover, CSO audit feedback has not yet resulted in public financial management changes. If participatory audits continue after the seven planned inspections and become a standardized process rather than a project-based activity, this commitment could achieve major open government changes in the long run. Particularly, the SAO would need to act on CSO input to ensure that participatory auditing translates to improved public services for Afghan citizens.

[1] “Citizens’ Participation Mechanism in the Inspection Process,” High Inspection Office, 2018, accessed 8 October 2018, from http://sao.gov.af/Content/files/میکانیزم%20مشارکت%20عامه%20در%20روند%20تفتیش.pdf.
[2] When the action plan was drafted, this commitment fell under the leadership of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC). Since February 2018, HOOAC has merged with the Attorney General’s Office. This commitment, therefore, currently falls under the mandate of the Supreme Audit Office.
[3] “Afghanistan Design Report 2017–2019,” Open Government Partnership, Section IV, “Commitments,” 19, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/afghanistan-design-report-2017-2019/.
[4] Personal interview, director of public participation in the auditing process, Supreme Audit Office, 25 July 2019, Kabul.
[5] “Citizens’ Participation Mechanism in the Inspection Process,” High Inspection Office, 2018, accessed 8 October 2018, http://sao.gov.af/Content/files/میکانیزم%20مشارکت%20عامه%20در%20روند%20تفتیش.pdf. A copy of the progress report of this commitment was made available to the IRM researcher on 25 July 2019.
[6] Information provided by the OGP Afghanistan Secretariat to IRM staff during the prepublication comment period. Audit reports are available on the Supreme Audit Institution website: tinyurl.com/3aq3783q.
[7] Personal interview, director of public participation in the auditing process, Supreme Audit Office, 25 July 2019, Kabul.
[8] Personal interview, advocacy officer, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 5 August 2019, Kabul; and personal interview, director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 6 August 2019, Kabul.
[9] Information provided by Integrity Watch Afghanistan to IRM staff during the prepublication comment period.
[10] Personal interview, advocacy officer, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 5 August 2019, Kabul.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Personal interview, director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 6 August 2019, Kabul.
[13] Personal interview, advocacy officer, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 5 August 2019, Kabul.
[14] Personal interview, director of public participation in the auditing process, Supreme Audit Office, 25 July 2019, Kabul.
[15] Personal interview, advocacy officer, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 5 August 2019, Kabul.

Commitments

  1. Revise Law on Recruitment and Authority of Attorneys General

    AF0014, 2019, Access to Justice

  2. Revise Law on Local Government

    AF0015, 2019, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Establish Anti-Corruption Commission

    AF0016, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  4. Draft Beneficial Ownership Legislation

    AF0017, 2019, Anti-Corruption

  5. Portal for Processing Legislative Documents

    AF0018, 2019, Capacity Building

  6. CSO Monitoring of Education

    AF0019, 2019, E-Government

  7. Develop Electronic Complaint System for Local Government

    AF0020, 2019, Capacity Building

  8. Reform and Strengthen Education Data

    AF0021, 2019, Access to Information

  9. Participation in Local Budgeting

    AF0022, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  10. Electronic Revenue Collection System

    AF0023, 2019, Capacity Building

  11. Co-Create University Curriculum

    AF0024, 2019, Education

  12. Reform Promotion System for Police Officers

    AF0025, 2019, E-Government

  13. Monitoring Framework for Medicine Wholesalers

    AF0026, 2019, E-Government

  14. Monitoring of Private and Public Health Centers

    AF0027, 2019, E-Government

  15. Participation in National Budget

    AF0028, 2019, Fiscal Openness

  16. Open Justice for Anti-Corruption

    AF0029, 2019, Access to Justice

  17. Women's Empowerment Plan

    AF0030, 2019, Gender

  18. Establishment of Women Grand Council

    AF0031, 2019, Gender

  19. Law on Processing, Publishing and Enforcing Legislative Documents

    AF0002, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  20. Courts to Address Violence Against Women

    AF0003, 2017, Access to Justice

  21. Public-Police Partnership Councils

    AF0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  22. Registering Assets of Government Officials

    AF0005, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  23. Scheme for Establishing Health Service Accreditation Entity

    AF0006, 2017, Capacity Building

  24. Urban Improvement National Policy

    AF0007, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  25. Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations

    AF0008, 2017, Fiscal Openness

  26. Civil Society Monitoring Plan for Education and Higher Education

    AF0009, 2017, Education

  27. Plan for the Establishment of a Joint Committee Overseeing the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy

    AF0010, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  28. Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies

    AF0011, 2017, Access to Information

  29. Starred commitment Implementing Open Contracting

    AF0012, 2017, Access to Information

  30. Starred commitment Public Participation in Road Network Projects

    AF0013, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  31. Starred commitment Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

    AF0001, 2017, Anti-Corruption

Open Government Partnership