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Afghanistan

Registering Assets of Government Officials (AF0005)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2017

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC)

Support Institution(s): HR departments within ministries and governmental agencies, CSOs, citizens and media

Policy Areas

Asset Disclosure, Capacity Building, E-Government, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Afghanistan Design Report 2017-2019

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

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?: Based on article 154 of Afghanistan’s Constitution and article 12 of the Law on Overseeing Implementation of Anti-Administrative Corruption Strategy, the HOOAC is obliged to register and publish assets of high-ranking officials. However, a number of officials have not completed their asset declaration forms for registration and publishing.
Incomplete registration process and lack of timely declaration and publication of officials’ assets undermines performance of the government, adversely affects access to information and paves the grounds for administrative corruption.; What is the commitment?: During a consultative meeting with Open Government Partnership-Afghanistan Forum, HOOAC is committed to registering, publishing and reviewing assets of 100 high-ranking officials who have never registered their assets, who have not followed the annual requirements of updating their registered assets, who have not provided adequate information regarding their assets, and those who lack cooperation in the follow up assessment of their registered assets. The above mentioned four broad areas of criteria correspond with the criteria stipulated in the Constitution of Afghanistan as well as article 12 of the Law on Overseeing Implementation of Anti-Administrative Corruption Strategy. This will promote transparency, public access to information and prevent from corruption in the public sector.
For this purpose, the office is intended to hold a joint session with the collaboration of CSOs for prioritizing 100 high-ranking officials whose assets ought to be registered and published in order to register and publish their assets. Implementation of this commitment is expected to increase transparency, enhance citizen’s access to information, prevent from corruption, and eventually promote public trust in the government.; How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?: Registration and publication of high-ranking officials’ assets will decrease grounds for misuse of office and illegal accumulation of assets by government officials. Additionally, the commitment will lead to increase transparency and public access to information.
In order to implement this commitment, HOOAC will prepare a list of high-ranking officials whose assets are not yet registered and published or need to be re-registered. Consequently, the office will complete the process in collaboration with CSOs once the list is prioritized. The office is intended to give a monitoring role to CSOs and media through publishing the list in its official website. It will then organize an awareness-raising session in order to inform the public from high-ranking officials’ assets. Implementation of this commitment will cause a decline in administrative corruption through enhancing transparency, accountability and rule of law.; Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?: This commitment is relevant to three values of Open Government Partnership: people would gain access to information through the publication of high-ranking officials’ declared assets. Public access to such information will ensure and promote transparency in performance of the government. Additionally, implementation of this commitment is made possible through the participation of CSOs, and access to information would enable the general public to hold the government accountable.; Additional information: The required fund for implementing this commitment is provided from the budget of High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption.
This commitment is consistent with Anti-Corruption Strategy.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

5. Registering, Publishing and Reviewing Assets of 100 High-ranking Government Officials

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

“Based on article 154 of Afghanistan’s Constitution and article 12 of the Law on Overseeing Implementation of Anti-Administrative Corruption Strategy, the HOOAC is obliged to register and publish assets of high- ranking officials. However, a number of officials have not completed their asset declaration forms for registration and publishing.

Incomplete registration process and lack of timely declaration and publication of officials’ assets undermines performance of the government, adversely affects access to information and paves the grounds for administrative corruption.

During a consultative meeting with Open Government Partnership- Afghanistan Forum, HOOAC is committed to registering, publishing and reviewing assets of 100 high-ranking officials who have never registered their assets, who have not followed the annual requirements of updating their registered assets, who have not provided adequate information regarding their assets, and those who lack cooperation in the follow up assessment of their registered assets.

Milestone activities and verifiable deliverables
  • Prepare a list of high-ranking officials whose assets are subject to registration and publication
  • Prioritize registration of 100 officials’ assets together with CSO’s and publicize the list of 100 high-ranking officials via HOOAC website and media.
  • Sending the assets forms to 100 high-ranking officials for completion and collection
  • Publishing the registered assets of each of the 100 high-ranking officials as completed by HOOAC who will disseminate it on their website.
  • Establishing a mechanism for CSO’s’ monitoring of the asset reviewing process jointly designed by HOOAC and CSO’s. This mechanism will ensure the CSO’s engagement in the asset reviewing process.
  • Completing the reviewing of 100 officials’ assets with monitoring of CSO’s based on above established mechanism. A summary of the completed review within the scope of laws will be prepared, published and disseminated jointly by HOOAC and CSO’s.
  • Holding 5 public awareness raising campaigns which include but is not limited to CSO’s, media, academic institutions and youth organizations on how to access HOOAC findings.”

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/05-registering-assets-of-government-officials

Context and Objectives

The aim of this commitment is to register, review and publish assets of 100 high-ranking government officials who have not previously registered their assets according to the annual asset declaration requirement.

Despite the existence of the law on asset registration, a number of high-ranking government officials have still not declared their assets. [42] As highlighted in the OGP-A Action Plan, this can adversely affect citizens’ access to information and pave the grounds for administrative corruption. The High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC) has been engaged in the last decade in efforts to raise public awareness of and register public officials’ assets. Nevertheless, the process proceeded slowly due to the lack of political will. [43] Over the past nine years, the HOOAC registered 9,000 cases of individual asset declarations by high-ranking officials. [44] By contrast, during an initial six-month period under the National Unity Government after enactment of the law, the HOOAC registered 14,000 cases of individuals subject to declare assets, owing to the strong support by President Ghani as well as pressure by the donor community, such as the World Bank. [45] Since early 2018, the HOOAC has ceased to exist as an independent public body and has instead been merged with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). As such, the asset registration mandate has fallen under a new directorate of Public Officials’ Assets’ Registration and Verification since February 2018. This change has not been reflected in the action plan.

Afghanistan ratified and published the law on Registration and Dissemination of Assets of Public Officials in 3 chapters and 16 Articles in 2017. Apart from governing the registration and record of assets, the law aims to identify those who misuse their official position for personal gain and to prevent corruption. Article 4 concerns the establishment of the implementing agency, which is the Directorate on Public Officials’ Assets’ Registration and Verification (the Directorate) located within the Administrative Office of the President (AOP). The law obliges all public officials, especially those in higher ranks such as ministers, deputy ministers, and Parliament Members, to register their properties and those of their close relatives (e.g. father, mother, wife/husband and children) each fiscal year. [46]

This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information because the public will have the opportunity to access information on high-ranking government officials’ registered assets. The commitment is also relevant for civic participation because it purports to give CSO’s the opportunity to monitor the Directorate’s activities in the process of reviewing assets. Although both public officials and CSOs interviewed for this report raised this aspect as one of the tension points. While CSOs flagged out their willingness to be more involved throughout the process, [47] the government official stated that due to confidentiality and sensitivity of the issue, they cannot share information with CSOs and the public until the verification cycle is complete. [48]

The commitment is largely verifiable, although the milestone discussing the mechanism of collaboration between the government and CSOs is not clear. Considering that the participation of CSOs in this process is a crucial component, further clarity is needed on the role of CSOs for a successful completion of this commitment.

The IRM researcher considers the potential impact of this commitment to be moderate as it would result in the public declaration of assets held by many high-ranking officials who had before continuously resisted to do so. [49] Although asset registration of 100 individuals may seem a small number, considering the criteria established by the commitment it could actually set an important precedent for transparency. The lack of a compliance and/or verification mechanism should the declaration forms not be submitted limits the potential impact of the commitment from being transformative; the commitment does not address the reasons for which asset registration is not followed as prescribed by the law.

In addition, with the formation of the new Directorate and under the current commitment, asset registration of public officials has gained serious traction. It is important to note, that although the potential of the commitment is moderate, the impact of its results will depend on the ability of the government to enforce verification or successfully address any refusal from the 100 selected high-ranking officials to submit their asset declaration form.

Next steps

The IRM Researcher suggests the continuation of commitment to the next action plan.  Depending on how the commitment is implement, the next action plan could extend to register assets of a larger number of public officials and incorporate further elements:

  • The next action plan could more clearly define the procedure for engaging the CSOs in the process of verification of asset declarations. This exercise requires confidentiality on the government side that is in charge of collecting information on individuals’ assets. A procedure is therefore warranted whereby the government can specify the degree to which CSO’s can have access to such information, at what phase they can intervene, under what exact conditions, and so on. The lack of clarity on the CSOs’ role, on the one hand, and government’s inability to share sensitive information related to this commitment, on the other, was raised as a point of tension by both stakeholders interviewed by the IRM researcher. [50]
  • Specific security measures could be considered for the individuals who engage in this exercise, both for government officials and civil society representatives. According to the government official who was interviewed by the IRM researcher, threats exist for those implementing this commitment, but there are no security measures to safeguard them. [51] At the very least, they should be given an emergency functional contact number.
  • The next action plan could envisage a clear public accountability mechanism whereby action can be taken to sanction or address cases of failure to submit asset declarations. In addition to creating an accessible channel or platform where citizens could more effectively monitor the asset declaration process. As an example, the AOP could establish a portal where citizens can interact directly with Directorate officials to report cases of potentially suspicious asset possessions.
[42] National Action Plan, Open Government Partnership Afghanistan (OGPA), 2018-2019. Accessed on January 22, 2019, from https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Afghanistan_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN_UPDATED.pdf
[43] Personal interview, Expert, the Directorate on Public Officials Assets Registration and Verification, 22 October 2018, Kabul.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Ibid.
[46] IGoA, Ministry of Justice. (2017). Law on Registration and Dissemination of Assets of Public Officials. Retrieved November 22, 2018, from http://law.acku.edu.af/fa/download/file/fa/22871/75026
[47] Skype (follow up) interview, Director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 4 November 2018, Kabul and Italy; Skype (follow up) interview, Director of Advocacy and Communication, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 13 December 2018, Kabul and Italy.
[48] Personal interview, Expert, the Directorate on Public Officials Assets Registration and Verification, 22 October 2018, Kabul.
[49] Ibid.
[50] Personal interview, Expert, the Directorate on Public Officials Assets Registration and Verification, 22 October 2018, Kabul; Skype (follow up) interview, Director, Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization, 4 November 2018, Kabul and Italy; Skype (follow up) interview, Director of Advocacy and Communication, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 13 December 2018, Kabul and Italy.
[51] Personal interview, Expert, the Directorate on Public Officials Assets Registration and Verification, 22 October 2018, Kabul.

Commitments

  1. Mechanism of Public Partnership in Inspection Process

    AF0001, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. Law on Processing, Publishing and Enforcing Legislative Documents

    AF0002, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  3. Courts to Address Violence Against Women

    AF0003, 2017, Gender

  4. Public-Police Partnership Councils

    AF0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  5. Registering Assets of Government Officials

    AF0005, 2017, Asset Disclosure

  6. Scheme for Establishing Health Service Accreditation Entity

    AF0006, 2017, Capacity Building

  7. Urban Improvement National Policy

    AF0007, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport

  8. Protection Policy for Women Under Conflict and Emergency Situations

    AF0008, 2017, Gender

  9. Civil Society Monitoring Plan for Education and Higher Education

    AF0009, 2017, Education

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

    AF0010, 2017, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  11. Strengthen the Information Mechanism in 60 Governmental Agencies

    AF0011, 2017, Capacity Building

  12. Implementing Open Contracting

    AF0012, 2017, E-Government

  13. Public Participation in Road Network Projects

    AF0013, 2017, Infrastructure & Transport