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MPs warn of serious development budget embezzlement

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(Last Updated On: April 5, 2021)

Members of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) warned on Monday that millions of dollars earmarked for development projects in Afghanistan could be embezzled and sent out of the country by officials after the ministry of finance ordered that all development projects be put on hold.

The minister said however that it has called for projects to be prioritized as its dealing with a budget deficit.

“The Finance Ministry has told all other ministries that no projects can be implemented without the approval of the (finance) ministry,” said MP Makhdom Abdullah Mohammadi. He also said the signature of the Acting Finance Minister carries no weight.

Parliament approved the budget for the new fiscal year, 1400, in February following tension between government and the Wolesi Jirga over the document.

The estimated budget for the current year is over 473 billion AFN (nearly $6 billion), including 311 billion AFN ($4 billion) for the regular budget and 162 billion AFN ($2 billion) for the development budget.

Some MPs said money is already being embezzled.

“A clear looting [of government revenue] is underway; the budget is being looted before the eyes of millions of people,” MP Ghulam Husain Naseri said.

Another MP, Allah Gul Mujahed, meanwhile, stated: “We passed the year 1400 budget but projects for the year 1399 (2020) have been postponed to the year 1400 and the Acting Minister of Finance has told the Ministry of Public Works to stop working on development projects. They may want to transfer money [outside Afghanistan].”

The Ministry of Finance, however, stated that the organization has faced a budget deficit.

“We have faced a deficit in the budget; therefore, an official letter has been issued [to the ministries] to create a financial discipline and prioritize national projects and effectively use the national budget,” said Rafi Tabe head of Finance Ministry’s media office.

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Illegal Iranian saffron in the country raises concerns

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

Saffron producers in Herat province have voiced concerns over the practise of importing saffron from Iran, which they say lowers the price of the spice on local markets.

Abdul Shakoor, head of a saffron producing company, said they have over the years exported hundreds of kilograms of saffron annually but that there is a growing trend among traders to import the spice illegally from Iran.

“It is a betrayal to the nation,” said Abdul Shakoor.

This comes after producers recorded a 30 percent increase in saffron exports last year.

Herat saffron exporters union said they have not been able to prove that saffron is being smuggled from Iran into Afghanistan but said controls in this regard were lacking.

“Some amount of saffron might be imported from Iran and will be exported from Afghanistan, but it is very rare. Afghanistan produces saffron by itself and there is no need for Iranian saffron,” said Mohamad Uthman Ansari, head of Herat saffron exporters union.

“We are not able to prove [reports] who imports the saffron… one thing that we notice is poor management,” said Bashir Ahmad Rashidi, head of Afghanistan saffron producers union.

The Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry said bringing saffron into Afghanistan is illegal.

Spokesman for the ministry, Ahmad Fawad Ahmadi said this week that action would be taken against anyone who brings saffron into the country illegally adding that Afghanistan’s saffron is the best in the world.

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Peshawar cardiology institute opens new unit for Afghan patients

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

Afghan Counsellor General to Pakistan, Najibullah Ahmadzai on Monday inaugurated a Separate Counter at Peshawar Institute of Cardiology which will help Afghan patients get better and quicker treatment.

Speaking at the event, Ahmadzai welcomed the initiative and thanked the Khyber Pakhtun Khwa government for its role in the initiative. He also said he hoped the institute would continue to provide maximum facilities to Afghan patients.

Ahmadzai also said that countless Afghans visit Peshawar hospitals and clinics annually for medical treatment at established hospitals.

Professor Shahkar Ahmad Shah, CEO & Medical Director of the cardiology institute also addressed guests and said the hospital was also ready to help improve the skills of Afghan nurses and doctors.

He also said Afghan patients are treated at the hospital as equals.

According to him, already about 114 Afghan patients have been treated at the hospital in the past four months – including 11 who underwent open heart surgery.

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Ghani slams firms for shoddy work on development projects

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Monday criticized companies for substandard work on a number of development projects around the country and said this was “not satisfactory”.

Speaking at a development project event, Ghani said that proper attention was not being paid to the detail, resulting in shoddy work.

“Implementation of development projects affect the economy of the country; the relevant organizations must be careful about quality. Corruption must end, and transparency should be part of contracts,” said Ghani.
He also warned private companies that unless they deliver work of a high standard, the contracts will be withdrawn and handed over to government departments.

“The private companies should be careful about transparency in their contracts, otherwise all contracts will be given to government companies,” added Ghani.

In addition to this, Ghani, urged members of the public to monitor projects in order to avoid corruption.

Meanwhile, officials of the Ministry of Public Works, recently inaugurated 28 development projects worth more than 7.4 billion AFN.
The projects are:
1- Kandahar- Spin Boldak road
2- Danesh- Pol-e – Maghan road in Kapisa
3- A bridge in Company area of Kabul city
4- Road in Kama district of Nangarhar province
5- Kabul –Logar highway
6- Kabul Ring Road
The minister of public works, Najibullah Yamin meanwhile said on Monday that work on the key Kabul to Kandahar highway will start in the near future.
“Twenty two projects are currently underway in Kandahar. Survey of Kabul-Kandahar highway started this year and construction on it will start soon,” said Yamin.

Kabul’s mayor, Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy also noted progress on Monday and said: “Bridge of Shina and Bridge of Pacha were inaugurated today (Monday). The project was funded from municipality development budget. Three million square meters of land has been taken back from warlords,” he said.

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