Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghanistan: Salaries Docked, But For What?

Civil servants are unhappy about being made to pay for aid projects.
By Farid Tanha

State employees in Parwan province have complained that money has been repeatedly docked from their salaries for local reconstruction efforts, with no clear answers as to how it has been spent.

Local government staff, teachers and police officers have all had a day’s pay deducted from their wages on three occasions since 2012, although only the first cut was compulsory.

This first deduction came in June 2012, when 12,000 government employees were each docked a day’s wages towards the reconstruction of the historic citadel of Jabal Saraj.

Originally called Saraj al-Amesar, the structure was built in 1907 on the instructions of Amir Habibullah Khan, the former king of Afghanistan, but then largely destroyed in a Taleban attack in 1998.

Following this deduction, in October 2016 the local authorities used the same method to raise 400,000 Aghanis (5,700 dollars) to go towards supporting Parwan’s football team. In November the following year, they similarly raised 250,000 Afghanis (3,600 dollars) to help the victims of a landslide in Badakhshan.

Hikmatullah, a 38-year-old employee in Parwan’s education department, said that it was the first round of deductions that had proved the most contentious. He said he did not believe any work had been carried out at the historic site.

“I get paid 100 US dollars each month, and one day of my salary, which is four dollars, was deducted to rebuild Jabal Saraj Arg,” he said. “But the plan for renovating it has not even been formulated yet.”

If there had been reconstruction at Jabal Saraj Arg, he said, then he would not have objected to having his salary docked.

“I am a government employee and I’m not happy that they take our money by force,” Hikmatullah continued, adding, “My money was cut before it’s paid to me. If I got my salary [directly] I would never allow anyone to take my money.”

Ataulhaq, who works at Parwan’s department of labour, social affairs, martyrs and the disabled, also said he was unhappy about the deductions.

“My wages for one day are ten dollars. With that money, I could have paid my mobile phone bill, but they took this money from my salary,” the 50-year-old said.

Khwaja Muhammad Wali, an admin and finance officer at Parwan police headquarters, also confirmed that they had deducted between four and ten dollars from the wages of 2,000 officers in June 2012 in connection with the Jabal Saraj rebuilding efforts.

Mohammad Khalid Bayan, head teacher at the Hofyan Sharif boys’ secondary school, said his salary had also been docked. Although he had been in his post for 25 years, he said that he had not bothered to make a formal complaint. Bayan said that local government was so corrupt he had no hope that anyone would take his concerns seriously.

Despite the clear resentment from civil servants, government officials insist that there had been prior agreement over the deductions.

Parwan deputy governor Aqa Shah Wali Shahid said, “The Jabal Saraj Arg is an important Afghan historic monument, and all residents and government employees share the responsibility for the rebuilding of this monument and should not hesitate to help restore it in every possible way.”

He said that civil servants who were concerned about the transparency of the process should direct their questions to the provincial authorities.

However Masihullah Harooni, director of the provincial department of economy, said that he had no data on how the collected salary deductions had been spent.

He said that it was standard practice for contractors carrying out construction work in Parwan to inform his department, but that he had not been provided with any information on the reconstruction of Jabal Saraj Arg.

Abdul Wahid Hashemi, director of the department of information and culture, said, “We didn’t taken a day’s salary by force, but only with consent, and on the order of former provincial governor Abdul Basir Salangi.”

Hashemi added that the decision to collect money in this way had been made by the provincial government and that his department had played no part in it.

Salangi told IWPR that he had envisaged the 2012 initiative as part of a wider fundraising scheme that would involve local traders and business leaders.

However, he said that some potential investors had failed to deliver on their promises to donate to rebuilding efforts.

What had ultimately happened to the 2.7 million Afghani (400,000 dollars) collected by the municipality for Jabal Saraj Arg was also unclear.

Gulabuddin Mirzaei, the manager of Parwan’s finance department, said, “The money collected for the reconstruction of Jabal Saraj Arg was transferred to De Afghanistan Bank in Parwan province.”

Sayed Alam Safi, the head of the Parwan branch of De Afghanistan Bank, said, “One day’s worth of salaries collected from civil servants in Parwan province was transferred to this bank by Parwan’s finance department, but was later transferred to an account named Awaidi Mastofiat [Finance Revenue] in the Azizi Bank.”

Mohammadullah Mohabatyar is a representative of Bahr Arzoo, the construction company contracted to carry out the work on Jabal Saraj Arg.

He said that they he had received only 1.7 million Afghanis (250,000 dollars) out of the 2.7 million Afghani total payment they were owed.

However, the Parwan local authorities disputed this claim, and said all money owed had been paid in full.

This report was produced under IWPR’s Supporting Investigative Reporting in Local Media and Strengthening Civil Society across Afghanistan initiative, funded by the British Embassy Kabul.