Kabul – December 28, 2020
Reporter: Bilal Khudadad
The Payk Investigative Journalism Center has obtained a document which shows that Javid Rasouli, director of the National Statistics and Information Agency (NSIA), has rented a residential house for himself and his family in Kabul’s Wazir Muhammad Akbar khan neighbourhood for a monthly sum of 129,000.00 afghanis from the NSIA’s regular budget in the years 2017 and 2018. A sum which amounts to more than one and a half million afghanis in a year is deposited to the account of Salamjan Faraz, the houseowner, every quarter.
Based on information obtained from a reliable source, Mr. Rasouli does not live in this house anymore and has moved to another residential house in Kabul’s Third District, the monthly rent of which is also paid from the budget of this agency.
Roeina Shahabi, the spokesperson for the NSIA, accepts that even though the director of this agency owns a house in Kabul’s Khairkhana neighbourhood, he is currently living in a house rented by this agency in Kabul’s Karte Char neighbourhood due to security threats against high ranking government officials.
Ms. Shahabi does not have information about the rent amount, but she confirms that the rent is paid from the regular budget of this agency.
According to the obtained documents, the renting of a residential house equipped with all residential services such as water and electricity in the secure area of Wazir Akbar Khan has been contracted for the director of the NSIA, based on the decree No. 462 dated 20/11/2018.
The NSIA Spokesperson emphasizes that the process is legal and adds that the cabinet ministers and heads of independent government agencies who work in out-of-grade positions can pay for some of their personal expenses from their respective agencies’ budgets.
Ms. Shahabi, while not providing any document or proof on the matter, says that the rest of the information and the decree should be requested from the Administrative Office of the President (AOP).
In addition to a fixed salary of no less than 200,000.00 afghanis, senior government officials also receive substantial allowances for foods and other miscellaneous expenses from the government budget on a monthly basis. Findings of the Payk Investigative Journalism Center show that the director of NSIA has spent millions of afghanis from the government’s budget on renting residential houses in Kabul city for his family.
In response to the Payk reporter’s request for information, in an official letter signed by the Deputy Director of Documents and Communication, the AOP has written: “after checking the archive of the Directorate of Documents and Communication, the presidential decree No. 462 dated 20/11/2018 was not found, and the last archived decree’s registration number in 2018 is lower than the aforementioned number.”
The Payk reporter requested the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the AOP to provide a list of the officials considered eligible under this decree, and also explain how much of the national budget is spent annually on the personal expenses of senior government officials, through a request for information form. However, after more than a month, officials of the MoF and the AOP have remained silent and provided no response on the matter, while passing the issue to one another.
Feraidoon Nowekht, public information officer of the MoF, confirms the documents obtained by the Payk which are marked with this ministry’s red stamp, and emphasizes that the representative of MoF has signed and stamped these documents based on the presidential decree.
But to the Payk reporter’s request of obtaining a copy of the presidential decree, Mr. Nowekht said: “The decree is available, but we are not responsible for providing it, the AOP is.” A decree which the AOP says they do not have it on their database.
Renting houses by Single-Source Procurement
Documents obtained from the department of Consultancy and Non-Consultancy Services of NSIA’s Procurement Department indicate that the residential house has been temporarily contracted using the “Single-Source” procurement method on 22/12/2018.
Based on this official document, there was no bidding announcement and pre-bid meeting for the procurement of the residential house and apart from the only single-source bidder (houseowner) no other bid was submitted for it. The country’s procurement law emphasizes open tendering. As stated in the fifth paragraph of Article 18 of this Law: “If procurement through open tendering is not feasible, a written justification shall be placed in the record of the procurement proceedings stating the reasons for using other procurement methods listed in this article in accordance with the provisions of this Law.”
The National Procurement Authority (NPA) also emphasizes that without a valid reason, concluding a procurement contract using the single-source method is illegal and wrong. Ramin Ayaz, the spokesperson for the NPA, told the Payk reporter that even though the Procurement Law prefers open tendering for all contracts, but if there is a legal reason for using another procurement method, the awarding officer has the authority to conduct the procurement proceedings by any preferred method. According to the spokesperson of the NPA, if there is no valid reason for the use of single-source procurement method, using this method is wrong and illegal.
The NSIA provides no reason for concluding the procurement contract using the single source method. The obtained documents also show that the annual rent amount for this residential house has been estimated by the Procurement Department of the NSIA to be 1,428,000.00 afghanis, but the bid submitted by the single-source contractor is more than 1,550,000.00 Afghanis, which is 8.5% higher than the NSIA’s estimated amount.
Meanwhile, the computerized technical evaluation form (D-7) of this agency’s Procurement Department shows that technical standards of this contract has not been completed, however the printed version of this form has been edited by hand writing using a pen to “yes”.
Misuse of presidential decree or legal authority
Although, the spokesperson for the NSIA reiterates the legitimacy of this contract which is paid for from the regular budget based on a presidential decree. However, according to legal experts of the country, even if there is such a decree, the contract is illegal, and no law in the country gives any government official the right to use the national budget for personal use.
Subhanullah Misbah, deputy head of Afghanistan Lawyers Union, believes with the laws of the country being implemented, the decree by the President is illegal.
Mr. Misbah also called the use of single-source procurement method in concluding the contract for renting a residential house for the director of the NSIA illegal and emphasized that the officials of this agency should be held accountable.
However, Roeina Shahabi, the spokesperson for the NSIA, denies any illegal use of the agency’s regular budget, adding that the procurement proceedings for the contract were transparent and legal.
Legal experts further add that directors of budgetary units and independent government agencies, not only for personal expenses, but even for the expenses related to agency, cannot spend from regular budget beyond their legal authority.
According to these experts, there is no problem if the procurement proceedings of the personal and official expenses are carried out in accordance with the Procurement Law. However, if procurement proceedings of these expenses, personal or official, are carried out in violation of the provisions of this law and legal authority, it will considered “embezzlement” of government budget and can be prosecuted.