By Mohammad Hassan Hakimi
Ghor Province – Hayatollah said that he is supposed to be teaching history and geography for grades 6-9 at the Kahrezak Secondary School, located 60 kilometers from the provincial capital of Cheghcheran.
But when asked to identify Ahmad Shah Durrani, who was the first king of Afghanistan, the 22 year-old teacher replied with a smile that he did not know. When asked again to name the most famous rivers in Afghanistan, he said he did not know the name of any river in Afghanistan except the Ghor River.
Hayatollah said that when he was sent to Kahrezak School two years ago by the provincial education department, he found out in his very first days on the job that the other teachers at the school did not possess even basic literacy skills.
He went back to Cheghcheran and never returned to the school. Even so, he said he has received his monthly teaching salary for the past two years. “The cashier brings my salary to my doorstep every month,” Hayatollah said.
At least 280 million afghanis (approximately $USD 5.8 million) from the budget of the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan have been distributed either inefficiently or directly to powerful local individuals in Ghor Province, according to an investigation by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Only 20 percent of the provincial teaching budget is actually being paid to educators who go to schools and teach. The other 80 percent goes to absentee teachers. As a result, many students are promoted from one grade to the next without studying anything, according to government officials and even teachers who say they have not stepped foot in a classroom in months, despite receiving a monthly wage.
Those involved in this widespread graft in the central Afghan province includes local security personnel and education officials who receive monthly salaries in the names of absentee teachers. To date, no government agency has investigated the reported embezzlement.
Approximately 4,000 teachers in Ghor province currently receive monthly salaries from the government. An IWPR review found that perhaps 3,200 of these individuals are not teachers and, in fact, many cannot read and write. The individuals are mostly residents of the villages near the schools.
IWPR also compiled a list showing that 80 percent of the 740 schools in the province are closed and inactive, but the provincial education department still pays salaries to the teachers of these schools on a monthly basis.
A history of abuse
The government is aware of the problem of absentee teachers being paid. A report by the Pajhwok News Agency from October 26, 2010, quoted Mohammad Safdar Khodayar, a member of the audit team for the Ghor education department, as saying his staff’s work showed that 90 percent of the schools in the province capital of Cheghcheran were closed, but that teachers were being paid monthly. He called the practice a national treason, blaming corruption within the Ghor education department.
Documents and other evidence obtained during an IWPR investigation strongly indicate that education directors in Ghor play a key role in the corruption.
Ahmad Tawab, current director of education in Ghor Province, was arrested in his room on the evening of October 28 by National Directorate of Security (NDS) officials, moments after he received 200,000 afghanis (approximately $USD 4,140) from Sherzai, director of the UNESCO office in Ghor. Tawab is currently in detention.
Tawab asked for this money from Sherzai to pay three month’s salary to 100 teachers of a UNESCO literacy course, according to his court case. The education director told the UNESCO director he would sign no salary forms for teachers if he were not given the 200,000 afghanis.
In another example of graft, former Ghor director of education Mohammad Nayim Forogh was caught in July 2010 stealing 500 100-kilogram sacks of wheat provided by the World Food Program for Cheghcheran school students.
Forogh had not yet sold all the wheat sacks when he was informed that the government had discovered the theft. He tried to escape from Ghor to Kabul, but was arrested by NDS officials on the way in Lal Sarjangal district. He later admitted his crime and a Ghor court sentenced him to five years, a verdict that was confirmed by an appeals court in October of 2010, court documents show.
After a June 2010 investigation by the Ghor education department audit team,
Id Gol Azem and Kamaloddin Mawdudi, deputy directors for educational and administrative affairs in the Ghor education department, were both sacked amid accusations that they had embezzled 400,000 afghanis from the Ghor provincial education budget. The two men quickly repaid the money.
Bribery and embezzlement is not limited to the Ghor education system, and the corruption sometimes includes officials in Kabul, IWPR’s investigation has found.
In October of 2010, an IWPR reporter was in the Cheghcheran branch of Kabul Bank conducting private business when he noticed that Habiborahman Hakimi, an employee of the Ghor municipal properties department, had a huge bundle of 1,000-afghani notes in his hands.
Upon questioning, Hakimi admitted he had come to the bank to put 400,000 afghanis into the bank account of a friend from Mazar-e-Sharif who was a member of an anti-corruption commission delegation from Kabul that had recently arrived in Ghor.
Hakimi told the reporter the mayor of Ghor had asked him to secretly transfer the money to a specific bank account. Hakimi claimed that the money belonged to the mayor and that the auditors from Kabul had asked him for it as a bribe, promising in return that the delegation would not bother the municipality during the investigation.
Hakimi also claimed that three days earlier, he received 500,000 afghanis from the Ghor director of education and deposited in the bank account of a relative of one of the committee members.
A two-year investigation in Ghor by the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, Afghanistan’s top anti-graft body that was established in 2008, uncovered three methods by which education officials collected salaries paid to employees who did not go to their schools.
Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil, director of monitoring for the education ministry, provided an IWPR reporter with documents and evidence showing embezzlement of the salaries for 400 school night guards who had not been physically present in the schools at all.
Two or three male guards are assigned to each school, Khalil said, and Ghor education officials prepared a fake organization chart for 400 people in schools in nine districts and then collected 3,500 afghanis per month for each of these positions from the government budget, for a total monthly payment of 1.4 million afghanis.
Khalil said that money went into the pockets of the now-detained director of education Ahmad Tawab, administrative deputy director Abdol Hakim, provincial finance officials and accountants, and some local military and police commanders in the districts and villages.
According to Khalil, a second form of corruption conducted by the Ghor education department involved 1,900 teachers who signed one-year contracts. These teachers did not go to work, and the next year officials signed 1,900 new teachers, taking one-month’s salary as a bribe in the process.
Khalil showed an IWPR reporter documents indicating some of this money went to Ahmad Tawab, Abdol Hakim, and education department accountants Abdol Rawuf Hamidi, Gholam Faruq and Ghafuri. The rest of the money allegedly went to the Ghor finance department and, again, to some local commanders.
Khalil told IWPR the third form of corruption involves non-working teachers who pay a small percentage of their salary to government officials when they collect it every month. Khalil says that money also goes to the education department, finance department and local commanders.
Khalil said he witnessed in his own office a teacher who had not been seen for months ask for 18,000 afghanis in back salary.
Accountant Gholam Faruq asked the teacher for a 9,000-afghani bribe out of that payment. Khalil said that he asked Faruq not to take the bribe, but that Faruq ignored him and used some of the money two buy two mobile phone cash cards that he gave to another accountant in the office.
Ghor is a mountainous province in central Afghanistan and the people are poor. Most residents work in agriculture and livestock, while a small number get jobs as government workers. Most government employees in the provincial capital of Cheghcheran get paid between 5,000 and 8,000 afghanis per month.
A three-month IWPR investigation found that Abdol Rawuf Hamidi, finance manager of the Ghor education department, has held that position for five years and collects a monthly salary of 7,500 afghanis. He owns a new Land Cruiser worth $20,000, a Toyota Corolla worth $7,000, and two mansions located behind the provincial hospital in Cheghcheran, which one realtor estimated were worth a combined $200,000.
Abdol Hakim, the 35-year-old administrative deputy director of education in Ghor, started this job only two months ago after serving as the finance director for the education department for three years. His new salary is 7,000 afghanis per month.
Yet, he owns a two-story mansion that a realtor said is worth $200,000 in the center of Cheghcheran city next to the airport and close to the US military Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) camp. He owns a new black Toyota 4Runner truck worth $8,000 and recently got married for the second time.
The IWPR reporter talked to many sources in the area. None of them had any knowledge of any inheritances the two officials might have received from their fathers.
Isolation, no oversight encourage graft
Lack of communication with the national Ministry of Education has allowed the Ghor education department to operate without transparency, violate laws and create a culture of impunity, officials like Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil say. Their victims are 240,000 students at 740 schools.
Khalil said that he has sent more than 200 official letters to the Ghor department of education, complaining about closed schools and absent teachers receiving salaries. (IWPR has copies of 62 of these letters).
“I’m sure all those letters have been use in the winter to light the stove in the education minister’s office,” he joked grimly, noting, however, that his efforts did lead to the sacking of 10 teachers from schools in Shewich who had been absent for five months but were still received salaries.
But 20 days after they lost their jobs, education director Ahmad Tawab reappointed five of those teachers.
Pasawand district Governor Mohammad Nasim Kohzad said all 52 schools in his district are closed. He said the deserted schools serve as a warning for the future of Pasawand, and that he has appealed unsuccessfully to Ghulam Farooq Wardak, the minister of education in Kabul, to get the schools opened.
“I have complained to the governor and the education director several times that the mullahs and Taliban who have guns on their shoulders receive salaries in the name of teachers from the schools in Pasawand, but no one has ever cared about it,” Kohzad said.
The chairman of the provincial council in Ghor, Fazl Haq Ihsan, said that it is regretful that teacher salaries are distributed among the people “like charity.” He said he has complained to the governor and the education director, with no results. Ghor government officials who are part of the salary chain say it is not their job to keep track of how that money is distributed.
Mohammad Yusof Maslak Fahm, finance director for Ghor province, says his department pays about 350 million afghanis to 4,000 teachers annually.
“We are responsible for paying the teachers’ salaries,” he said. “We are not responsible for asking whether the teachers are present or absent.” He said the finance department does not pay a teacher unless their name is included in the Form M41 of salaries confirmed by the department of education and the local district governor.
No teachers, no students
Before his arrest in October for allegedly seeking a bribe from UNESCO, Ghor education director Ahmad Tawab was interviewed by IWPR. He admitted the education department had serious problems but defended himself by pointing out that he was originally from Uruzghan province and was not familiar with the people of Ghor, although he has held his current position since 2002.
Tawab agreed that many teachers of schools in Ghor were local mullahs with ties to the Taliban, who had tribal influence in the districts and villages. He said many of them don’t go to the schools, but after bribes are paid, their names appear on the lists of active teachers to be paid. He admitted that he had very little oversight of what went on in the school administrations.
When he was interviewed, Tawab said: “The governor of Ghor asked me to go to the districts and monitor the schools, but I told him that it was not necessary now and that I will go there in a month.
No government official in Ghor denies that most of the schools are closed and that 280 million afghanis worth of teacher salaries are being distributed illegally every month.
Ghor governor spokesman Khatibi admitted, “there are no teachers, no students, no books and no education or studying in these schools.” He added that the governor is aware of this massive corruption, bribery and embezzlement in the education department.
Khatibi said teachers are appointed based on an ethnic quota. “When a teacher is appointed, it is not important to the education department whether he is literate or not, but it is important that the person should come from a specific ethnic group or village.”
Gholam Rabbani Hadafmand, an inspector with the teacher training department in Ghor, said he was asked last year to assess the education level of teachers in Shahrak, Saghar and Dolina districts. Of 300 teachers he interviewed, more than 200 of them were completely illiterate.
In the words of Ghor government spokesman Khatibi: “We know that schools in Ghor are plenty in number, but have no quality.”
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