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In Ghor government, absenteeism & corruption rampant

FEROZKOH (Pajhwok): Absenteeism, growing disenchantment of the masses and brazen corruption in government departments are symbolic of weak governance in Ghor province, public representatives and human rights advocates say.
Due to the absence of many provincial officials from duty, the people repeatedly visit government departments but their problem remain unresolved. Government servants are fast becoming disheartened in the absence of full-time provincial chief executives.
Acting governors are a key reason for the dismal performance of local departments. Acting head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Jawad Alvi claims many government servants come late to their offices and leave in the afternoon as a routine affair.
Drawing salaries in this situation was plain administrative graft, Alvi told Pajhwok Afghan News. People frequently stream to different government offices in the afternoon, but there is no one on duty to address their complaints, the rights campaigner notes.
With their problems staying unresolved, the visitors lose much of their precious time and hard-earned money, according to the AIHRC provincial head, who says the current situation is demonstrative of a lack of will on the government’s part to serve the public.
He alleges that when it comes to truancy or late-coming, acting governors and their deputies are tarred with the same brush. Their signatures are a prerequisite for implementation of policy decisions and sending people’s applications to the departments concerned.
When the top brass is away, he adds, the juniors also play skivers -- a proof of bad governance in Ghor. “I myself have visited the governor’s house several times to meet senior officials, but they remain absent. For instance, once I visited the Revenue Department, where only one of the nine staffers was present… The visitors were asked to come tomorrow, a state of affairs that drags on and on.”
Public representatives are equally critical of the worrying situation. Provincial council member Abdul Hamid Nateqi recalls last year’s elections necessitated acting appointments. But now that a new government has been in place for more than seven months, full-time and permanent officials should be appointed.
Ghor has an acting governor for almost a year, he says, adding the acting provincial chief executive is at loggerheads with his deputy. Residents have repeatedly taken to the streets, demanding the removal of the acting governor and his deputy, Nateqi continues.
“Government officials, believing the acting governor will be replaced sooner or later, are not enthusiastic about enforcing discipline or addressing public problems. When the governor works in an acting capacity or awaits replacement, there is no one to hold the provincial administration accountable...”
All problems including increasing corruption, insecurity, people-government hiatus, inefficiency and absenteeism are directly linked to continuation of interim governors, he believes, warning the people would be pushed into a severe crisis if the situation persists.
Nateqi continues: “I have raised the issue at several meetings. Over the past few days, I have visited departments of education, revenue, public health, women’s affairs, commerce, border and tribal affairs, as well as the Red Crescent. Many of their workers were away. So I had to visit every department twice or thrice.”  
The national unity government is eight months into its term, Syed Anwar Rahmati and many other governors continue to hold acting charge. Irate residents have accused the acting governor of massive graft, buying him an air ticket to fly out of Ghor. To press their demand, the people have staged a string of protests.
But Rahmati has been in a state of denial, saying he is ready to comply with orders from the central government and that he is least interested in staying governor against people’s wishes.
The Ghor Traffic Department is one of the state entities blasted for failing to discharge their duty efficiently. Resident Abdul Qadeer says he visited the department to get a driving licence. Over the past three months, he was kept waiting at least 10 times at the entrance to the department, but in vain.
Abdul Qadeer says whenever he goes to the department, its workers are absent. After waiting for hours, he has to return empty-handed. When the officials stray into their office, the applicant alleges: “I’m asked to come tomorrow -- they say it is late today, or our colleagues are away.”
Despite pressing engagements, the applicant keeps visiting the traffic bosses in the hope of getting a driving licence, but he cannot get past the red tape. “Is it good governance? They even asked me for bribes, but I declined by saying it is un-Islamic.” 
Another dweller, Mohammad Hasan, has a legal dispute over a shop for a year with a former provincial council member and a son of the director of refugee affairs. Whenever he visits the Department of Justice, he is told the director and his deputy are away and that he should come next week.
“They demanded bribes several times, but being a poor man, I don’t have that much money. However, my opponents are well-off and well-connected…there is no one to give the poor their due rights. These strongmen have destroyed my shop,” he deplores.
Gul Mohammad, living in Noor the Koh village near the provincial capital, complains: “An influential man has grabbed my land. I tried to meet the governor, but police kept me waiting at the entrance, saying my application has not been signed yet…They didn’t let me in.”
Three days later, when his plea was signed, the man had to wait for two days to meet the crime branch head at the police headquarters. When referred to a police station, the applicant had to wait for a week only to be told that law-enforcers could not visit the disputed land. .
Civil society activists confirm the sorry state of affairs, saying there is no mechanism for checks and balances and no accountability of errant government employees. One of them, Mohammad Wazir Noorani, laments the situation had led each departmental head to malingering and corruption.
Most directors, absent from work, are busy travelling in connection with their personal jobs. “We can see many of them skiving,” Noorani claims, saying 80 percent of government servants reach their offices at 9am and leave by 11.30am. Official timings are 8am to 4pm. He urged the authorities to rectify the situation.
But Abdul Hai Khatibi, the governor’s spokesman, insists Rahmati and his deputy -- if no in a meeting in Kabul or Ferozkoh, are always available to deal with public problems. Meetings on good governance, security and NGO affairs take place on schedule.
He acknowledges some public complaints are genuine, saying the education director and his subordinates often stay away from their duty. “The number of workers present may be low, but departments are not closed,” the spokesman observed.
A survey, jointly conducted by several government organs in Ghor last year, found that departments of education, public health, justice, agriculture, prosecutor, revenue, police headquarters and municipality were awash corruption of the least dignified variety.

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