Afghan gov’t probes salaries, payments made to relatives of high-ranking officials

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Afghan gov’t probes pay of officials’ relatives

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government announced Wednesday that it is investigating whether the relatives or close associates of high-ranking officials are receiving improper payments, kickbacks or bribes.

President Hamid Karzai has instructed all domestic and international companies and institutions to provide the amounts of money they pay to anyone related to or close to top officials, a statement released by the Ministry of Finance said. The information must be disclosed within four weeks.

“If the requested information is not disclosed in due time, the government will consider the provider and recipient of payment to be engaging in bribery,” the statement said.

Najib Manalai, an adviser to Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, said the ministry has a record of Afghan officials being paid salaries through agreements with donor nations, private organizations or other entities. But he said the ministry has reason to believe that people are being paid money on the side to influence high-ranking officials.

“It is possible that the brother or a relative of a high-ranking official are receiving money to encourage a minister perhaps to award contracts to certain companies,” Manalai said. “There are rumors that activities like this are going on. This is one of the things that cause corruption in the government — receiving money illegally — and we don’t want that.”

He said the finance ministry would refer cases of alleged corruption to the attorney general’s office.

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