Government ministries are facing multiple problems at the management and leadership levels due to a shortage of expert and professional capacity. As a result, government programs are often not implemented as effectively or efficiently as they should be.
The introduction of experts into governmental offices is gradually having an impact. “This will improve effectiveness in the ministries and reduce opportunities for corrupt practices,” says Masoud. “This is apparent in my own office, where we have seen improvement in performance.”
More efficient ministries
The Government of Afghanistan launched the CBR in 2012 with the goal to improve the capacity and performance of priority line ministries and independent agencies in selected reform areas. The current phase of the program runs to the end of 2017. The total CBR budget of $150 million is provided through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank.
CBR activities are aimed at, among other objectives, enhancing the ministries’ capacity to efficiently spend their development budgets, streamline business processes, and improve quality control and compliance of standards set by their reform programs.
The program currently works with 30 line ministries and independent agencies, in which it plans to recruit 1,500 expert and professional staff in managerial and other leadership positions during this phase of the program. So far the CBR has selected 751 professional staff, including the positions of Provincial Director of Agriculture and Provincial Human Resources Directors in a number of ministries.
Capacity building for state institutions is also key to the CBR. The program has trained 93 civil servants at the Civil Service Institute so far, with 40 percent of the trainees being women. It plans to train a total of 200 civil servants at the Civil Service Institute. Employees go through a 14-month training period, after which they return to their offices to put the learned skills to use.
Strong political support
Implementation of the CBR is overseen by the High Council on Reform, which was established by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in 2015. The CBR recruits applicants through a transparent process based on the Civil Service Law. “We recruit key people in places where employment and income are generated,” says CBR Director, Dr. Najibullah Wardak. “This will help circulate the country’s income sources and help it reach economic sustainability and self-sufficiency.”
The recruited staff generally have higher education degrees and sufficient experience to match the requirements set by the program. They are paid through the CBR budget, and the program also provides incentive payments to them. In line with civil service requirements, a recruitment quota of 30 percent is reserved for women, who are encouraged to apply through the program for positions within the government administration. It has recruited eight qualified women in various leadership positions at different ministries so far.
Nonetheless, the program faces challenges in finding candidates with the right expertise and education to fill positions, as well as those interested in working in the provinces rather than the cities. However, says Wardak: “In spite of many challenges, we have managed to score big achievements. The government provides strong political support for this program, which [helps] makes it even more successful.”