Afghans Paid $1 Billion in Bribes Last Year, Survey Says

By Edwin Mora | July 12, 2010 | 7:49 PM EDT

An Afghan woman walks past by a demolished shops in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, June 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

( – Afghans paid  $1 billion in bribes last year, the highest amounts of which were paid for social services such as health and education, according to the National Corruption Survey 2010 compiled by the non-profit watchdog group Integrity Watch Afghanistan [IWA].
The $1 billion figure paid in bribes during 2009 more than doubled the $466 million paid in 2006. IWA revealed, “The Afghan population as a whole paid twice as much [in bribes] in 2009 as it had paid in 2006.”
“Bribery today represents a burden of 1 billion USD [U.S. Dollars] on the Afghan GDP. One adult in seven experienced direct bribery in Afghanistan in 2009 while 28% of Afghan households [equivalent of 1,677,000 adults] paid a bribe to obtain at least one public service,” the survey explained.
Since 2007, corruption has remained the third-biggest concern to Afghans, only preceded by security and unemployment worries, the IWA revealed.
The IWA stated that the survey “was conducted at the end of 2009 in 32 [out of a total of 34] provinces of Afghanistan covering a representative sample of 6,500 respondents.”
According to IWA, “The findings of this survey shows that corruption threatens the legitimacy of state-building, badly affects state-society relations, feeds frustration and the support for the insurgency, leads to increasing inequality, impedes the rule of law according to Afghan standards, hinders access to basic public services, which impacts the poor most severely, and has a major negative effect on economic development.”
The survey report explained that bribery has been institutionalized in the delivery of public services.
According to the report, “The entrenched nature of corruption is obvious in the delivery of many public services, where the practice of bribery has become an institution.”
“The highest amounts of bribes are paid for the provision of basic social services such as education and health, with average bribes amounting to” $217 and $143 “respectively, per household that paid bribes.”
“While an average Afghan household of 7.3 members has an average income of 3,664 USD per year, households that paid bribes did so for more than two services during 2009. This represents an intolerable burden for the Afghan poor and vulnerable,” added the survey.
In 2009 “the average value of the bribes among those who paid them” was $156, explained IWA.
The $156 figure is about 31 percent of the $502 annual per capita income of Afghanistan, while the $217 paid on average for education bribes is 43 percent of the annual per capita income and the estimated $143 paid for health bribes is about 28 percent.
Essential to the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy is winning the trust of the Afghan population, assuring them that government officials are honest and the judicial infrastructure is accountable, something that had not been achieved as of the end of 2009.
Since 2007, the Afghan households surveyed by IWA have perceived the security and judiciary institutions as the most corrupt of all.
IWA explained that bribery was the most predominant form of corruption in Afghanistan. It added that corruption has undermined gains made by the international community since the end of 2001, which is when the ongoing U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan started.
“The concerns [about corruption] expressed by voices within Afghanistan may slightly differ from those of the international community,” the survey stated.
“However, both are based on the assumption that corruption derails the fundamental gains of Afghanistan achieved since the end of 2001,” the survey added.
According to the survey’s findings, “50% of the respondents consider that corruption fosters the expansion of the Taliban.”
Furthermore, “one third of the respondents said they had heard the Taliban were mobilizing against the government on the basis of corruption allegations.”
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] – Afghanistan on the day when the IWA survey was released announced that it had commissioned a task force to fight corruption in Afghanistan.
“In the wake of a newly released survey by the non-profit watchdog group Integrity Watch Afghanistan stating that corruption has doubled in three years since 2006, United States Forces - Afghanistan has established its own answer to fight corruption — Task Force 2010,” the ISAF press release stated.
“This is a task force of more than 20 individuals from a variety of backgrounds and will include experts in forensic auditing and criminal investigation as well as contracting,” said ISAF spokesman German Brig. Gen. Joseph Blotz.
“The task force will also have significant reach back capability to the Joint Staff and other U.S. government agencies as well as gathering evidence for Afghan and U.S. prosecutors to bring anti-corruption cases here and in the U.S.,” the press release explained.
Corruption in Afghanistan is so widespread that there are people known as “commission-takers” who act as mediators in securing and providing bribes, according to the IWA survey report.
According to IWA, the survey was funded “through IWA’s core-funding supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affaires.”