Bribery and corruption are pervasive in Afghanistan's current government, according to a survey released Monday that said most Afghans believe their leaders are more corrupt than the Soviet-backed government in the 1980s or the Taliban-run government in the 1990s.
About 60 percent of respondents said the current administration is more corrupt than any other in the past two decades, said the report by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an independent group. "Over the last five years, corruption has soared to levels not seen in previous administrations," it said.
Money "can buy government appointments, bypass justice or evade police," while the government is "unable or unwilling to seriously tackle corruption," it said. The group said it interviewed 1,258 Afghans for the study.
The courts and the Interior Ministry were highlighted as the most corrupt institutions. The group's executive director, Lorenzo Delesgues, pointed to weak law enforcement as a main reason for corruption and bribery. "Corruption has undermined the legitimacy of the state," Delesgues told a news conference.
The group, which conducted the survey in 13 provinces, said 93 percent of the respondents believed that bribes had to be paid for more than half of public services and administrative work. The report said impunity and unaccountability of civil servants underpinned corruption.
Despite the reports of widespread bribery and corruption, 45 percent of respondents said corruption had little or no effect on their households. Corruption in Afghanistan is fueled by low-paid government workers who pad their salaries by demanding bribes to process simple paperwork. Many Afghans pay bribes to avoid trouble with police, who make about US$70 (€52.53) a month.
The country's booming heroin trade also leads to corruption, with police and other government officials looking the other way after payoffs by farmers and drug-runners. Even Afghanistan's anti-corruption chief, Izzatullah Wasifi, has a troubling past. A recent Associated Press investigation found he was convicted two decades ago for selling heroin in the United States.
Wasifi is adamant his drug conviction should not affect his ability to serve in government, and compares his situation to U.S. President George W. Bush, who was once arrested in 1976 for drunk driving.