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Thousands of public office holders yet to reveal wealth

22septJune 17, 2019: Kabul (Pajhwok): The Asset Registration and Verification Department (ARVD) has taken some serious steps for registration of assets of high profile public office holders while analysts emphasis on dissolving the organization for being ‘inefficient’.

The ARVD was created in 2009 for prevention of corruption by registering assets of senior government officials.

According to Abdul Wadod Bashiryar, ARVD head, all senior state figures including parliament members should register their assets.

He said officials who obtained more wealth than their known sources of income would be introduced to judiciary organs.

Bashiryar said around 17,000 of high-ranking government officials had registered their properties since the office was created and 22,000 figures were eligible to register their assets.

He said registration of assets by government officials was part of the government’s commitment to the international community regarding fighting corruption.

“Those officials who refuse to register their assets, their foreign trips and salaries would be suspended,” he said.

He did not name officials refusing to register their properties but said such officials would be exposed to the media if they did not register their assets. Registration of properties of officials is now mandatory and no one is exempted.

In response to a question, Bashiryar said, “The assets of 500 government officials are under review, and if we find any violations, the offenders would be introduced to judiciary organs, the salaries of a number of officials have been suspended for violations.”

Bashiryar did not provide further details about the issue but said more information would be shared later with media after an ongoing review of the office was completed.

However, a number of experts say ARVD has been ineffective and call for its dissolution.

Dr. Ramazan Bashardost, a lawmaker from Kabul, criticized the performance of ARVD and said the office had not been able to register assets of officials whose wealth had significantly increased.

He called for sending the organ packing and said, “This office has embezzled public purse and must be dissolved and its expenses should distributed to poor people.”

He said a majority of officials who had registered their assets had provided wrong information while filling assets registration forms and they did not disclose their original properties.

“In the last term of Wolesi Jirga, only I and Baktash Siawosh registered our assets, others refused to do so,” he said.

However, Shekiba Hashemi, a former lawmaker from Kandahar province, said she registered her assets when she was contesting the lower house election. She also said most of lawmakers did not register their assets.

Only a limited number of legislators last year started registering their properties after the president emphasized that their salaries and privileges would be suspended if they did not reveal their wealth, she said.

But she said salaries of lawmakers who did not register their assets were not suspended despite the president’s order.

Hashemi also said ARVD was an ineffective organ and was yet to hold any violators accountable.

Ahmad Shankar, a lecturer at Kabul University, also accused the organ of poor performance and said it had no achievements since it was created.

“We know officials who would come on bicycles but now they travel in luxury vehicles, who asked them? When ARVD has no ability to investigate about the assets of officials, then it should be dissolved,” he concluded.

Source: Pajhwok

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