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Afghanistan - Trends and Recent Developments in Governance
Interview with Yama Yari, B.Eng. M.Sc. D.I.C, Director General,
National Procurement Authority Administrative Office of the
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
By Anand Kumar Srivastava and Plamen Stoyanov Kirov, Sr Procurement Specialists,
Governance Global Practice
What are the main trends and recent developments in the governance of Afghanistan, including in public procurement reforms? And what are the National Procurement Authority’s (NPA) contributions to them?
The National Unity Government (NUG) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has initiated a cluster of reforms in several areas of the public sector. It started with drastic “housecleaning” and new appointments based on merit and integrity for senior and mid-level civil service positions. Moreover, some 91 new laws and amendments of several existing laws and regulatory frameworks were undertaken and have been enacted over the past year. This is more than the number of laws enacted during any given year throughout the life of the previous administration. An important part of the current reform agenda encompasses reorganization of institutional set-ups and segregation of responsibilities amongst government agencies.
One of the most critical and successful reform initiatives undertaken by the NUG is the overhauling of the public procurement sector. With high-level political support, the NPA masterminded the concept for the reorganization and transformation of Afghanistan’s public procurement from a rather fragmented previous arrangement into a coherent and streamlined system. Moreover, during the course of the past 13 months NPA has outperformed, not only in terms of processing and reviewing around 1200 procurement cases, but also strategizing a much-needed roadmap. It is actively addressing issues within the legal and regulatory framework as well as process re-engineering, sustainable capacity development, fighting corruption, and moving towards electronic procurement. The World Bank, as the lead supporter of procurement reform, has continued to play a vital role in the success of NPA’s efforts and endeavors in terms of both technical and financial assistance.
What are the main challenges faced by the NPA in the process of the country’s public procurement reform?
By initiating and implementing a systemic and systematic change process, the NPA has encountered rock-hard challenges and tough resistance to change from government entities and political stakeholders, as well as backlashes from the Mafia, who had previously monopolized large procurements.
The objective is to regulate and monitor practices that were prone to mismanagement, misuse, corruption, and disregard for any legally and morally binding principles; therefore, one can imagine the severity of the challenges, which desperately needed full political back-up and steadfast commitment. While the President and the Chief Executive of the NUG provide political support, the NPA is striving for the implementation of procurement reform; this combination of political and technical reform is proving to be very effective and is certainly causing the corrupt and the Mafia to suffer.
How do you see the role of NPA evolving in next five years? And what are the NPA’s short, medium, and long term plans for strengthening the public procurement system in the country?
The NPA has devised the National Procurement Reform Strategy (2016–2020), with an explicit vision and well-defined strategic goals that could ensure institutionalization of an effective, efficient, and transparent procurement system within Afghanistan.
Short to medium-term priorities include strengthening of the legal and regulatory framework; institutional development of NPA and procurement entities; developing and strengthening impartial complaint-handling mechanisms; developing provincial procurement arrangements; and of course increasing NPA’s service delivery efficiency and capacity.
In the more long-term perspective, the NPA sees its evolving role and mission charted out based on the Strategy, and our team is relentlessly endeavoring to gradually build the NPA into a single independent regulatory body that is supported by an internal system that provides efficient, economical, and corruption-resistant services. Meanwhile, the evolution of e-procurement is the ultimate goal of the NPA as the most effective mechanism for handling procurement in a fair, competitive, efficient, and corruption-free manner.
What are the NPA’s plans for further strengthening the capacity of procuring entities and procurement professionals in the public and private sectors in Afghanistan? How does the system for accreditation of procuring entities work? What is being planned in this regard?
Professionalization, which entails both institutional and individual standard capacity development for the public and private sectors, is one of our key strategic objectives. Our plan is to realize this goal by establishing a world-class National Procurement Institute (NPI). The Institute will deliver curricula based on Afghanistan’s procurement law and the procurement guidelines of multilateral organizations such as the World Bank. The idea is to have an internationally accredited institute with internationally certified tutors and trainers so that the capacity of procurement officials in both the public and private sectors is built in a sustainable and parallel manner.
How do you see the regional cooperation of the public procurement entities within the SAR Public Procurement Network, and the NPA’s participation in it?
Highly crucial. I strongly believe reforms cannot be successful unless there is enough cooperation and collaboration as well as constant interaction concerning lessons learned, professional insights, best practices, and leadership experience exchange between networks. So far, the NPA has attended various regional procurement conferences and summits and has had active participation and enduring engagement with regional procurement organizations. This regional cooperation has enabled the NPA to take into account the experiences and journeys that have helped neighboring and regional countries, when devising its reform strategy.
In what areas would you expect to see more support from multilateral development banks (MDBs), and in particular from the World Bank’s South Asia GGP?
There is scope and opportunity for support in numerous areas with regard to the strategic goals that we have set out in our five-year strategy, for which I would be more than happy to build upon our current strong engagement with the World Bank and other agencies. For all of the support efforts undertaken so far to further succeed, it is of utmost importance that existing support instruments must not only continue but be expanded and aligned with the NPA vision and priorities so that we will mutually share the fruition of our common aspirations, through the realization of each and every strategic goal set out as part of the reform journey.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my greatest appreciation and gratitude to the World Bank, and all the colleagues who have been standing by our side since the NPA was born out of an idea. It is quickly growing into a national organization that really matters to all of us.
Source: Governance in Action, Governance Global Practice- South Asia Region, World Bank