KHOST CITY (Pajhwok): Pajhwok findings show a contract worth 107 million afghanisfor a retaining wall project in southeastern Khost province has been awarded on fake documents.
Approved by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), practical work on the 13.5 kilometer retaining wall project is yet to be started.
Funded by the World Bank, the project should be implemented with approval from the rural development councils of the certain areas.
However, contract for only 4,722 meters of the wall has been awarded.The project is being executed in Haronkhel, Qadam, Landar, Sadiq and Kotki areas of Alisher district, thus according to the procedure, the contract is also the right of the five development councils in the certain areas.
But documents obtained by Pajhwok show the MRRD has awarded the project contractto development councils of other areas instead of the Haronkhel,Qadam, Landar, Sadiq and Kotki areas.
According to information, out of these five development councils, Koza Abu Khana, Starswaki and Talwal are the three councils located a few kilometers away from the project site.
Development council of Saleem Jan village has signed the contracts with Kotko village instead of Haroonkhel village.
According to information obtained by Pajhwok, 285, 92618afghanishas been transferred to Koza Abu Khana bank account via Azizi Bank, 25,152,079afs to Straswaki development council, 12,328,625 afs to Talwal development council and 28,820,175 to Saleem Jan Koz village development council, withthe total amount reaching 107,893,497 afs.
The fund has been sent to the councils for construction of 4,722 meters retaining wall and no contract has been signed with the fifth development council, KadamKoz village.
Yarani, head of the Straswaki development council, told Pajhwok that about six months ago, an unnamed individual (middle man) from MRRD took their ID cards and stumped them.
He said the fingerprints affixed to the Straswaki development council contract were not theirs but someone else’s fingerprints had been affixed in their absence.
He added: “The commissioner had told them that you would be implementing a retaining wall project in your area, but later we found out there was no such thing. The project site was few kilometers away from our area.”
Isa Khan, the development council head for Koza Abu Khana area, also told Pajhwok that they had also collected ID cards and stumps for the purpose.
“Over 28 million afghanis have been transferred to their bank account, fingerprints and everything else on the contract have been done in our absence.”
A quarry letter has been sent to the District Development Assembly by the Khost Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department for implementation of 13.5 km long retaining wall project.
However, in response to a similar inquiry of the District Development Council which has been approved by the provincial Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department on June 2, Kuza Abu Khani, Star Swaki, Talwal, Salim Jan Kuz and QadamKuz villages are areas which do not correspond to the project location.
Pajhwok findings show that the inquiry was exchanged with a commissioner of Ali Sher District Development Council, who had no official relation with the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department or had other government job.
Ali Sher District Development Council head Jan Khan also confirmed that all the proceedings were passed on the directives of the said commissioner and the exact location for implementation of the project based on the inquiry of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department was not mentioned.
Naim Jan, head of a development council of Qadam area, told Pajhwok that they had seven development councils in the region but none were aware who was behind the issue.
He said they would not allow implementation of the project until relevant government officials provided them with explanation on the regard.
“The land is ours, the councils are ours, retaining walls are also being built in our area, so how that council was permitted, which is 15 kilometers away from us. We want the right should be given to the councils which are entitled for that,” he added.
Faizullah Khan, a member of a development council in Haroonkhel area, said that there were six development councils in their region but the retaining wall project was contracted with Star Swaki area’s council which was away from their region.
“We have visited Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department and have also visited MRRD several times, but no one listened to us, corruption is very obvious in the ministry. We will not let anyone work on that project until we are given our rights,” he said.
Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department Director AshuqullahIkhlasyar confirmed contacts with mentioned councils and said the move was aimed at strengthening local governance. He rejected allegations of forgery of documents.
He said that 30 million afghanis has been deposited to a council’s account through Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB)’s provincial branch for construction of the retaining wall.
But Pajhwok documents show 107 million afghanis had been deposited to four councils’ bank accounts for construction of 4,722 meters retaining wall.
However, Ikhlasyar said, “If anyone have observations about the documents we have received or they are fake, they can share their evidence with us, we will follow legal procedures, but no one has so far approached us about it.”
Faizullah Khan, a member of Haronkhel’s development council, said that they have several times visited Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department, but no one listened to them.
Rural Rehabilitation and Development Department director said that if local people did not resolve their differences in the next one and a half months, the budget will be moved to next fiscal year and then everything will start from the beginning.
“Based on the law, we cannot transfer money from a formal account to an informal account, but we can cancel the contract and sign a new one,” he added.
FeraidonAzhand, MRRD spokesman, rejected forgery in documents for the retaining wall, but said there were some social differences between local councils.
“That was the reason this project for current 1399 fiscal year was cancelled and it may have been sent for procurement next year, because development councils lack the capacity to implement it,” he said.
He confirmed transferring budget to development councils but said it was frozen in their accounts due to their internal problems.
Azhand said no council was able to withdraw a penny of the money and there was no corruption in the process. He rejected presence of a commissioner in the project and said the main issue was differences between local councils.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.