Afghanistan in dire need of professionally trained civil servants: experts

By Sulaiman

The CBR programme currently works with 30 ministries and independent agencies, in which it plans to recruit 1,500 expert and professional staff in managerial and other leadership positions. [Rumi Consultancy/World Bank]

The CBR programme currently works with 30 ministries and independent agencies, in which it plans to recruit 1,500 expert and professional staff in managerial and other leadership positions. [Rumi Consultancy/World Bank]

KABUL -- Rocked by four decades of war and violence, Afghanistan's government institutions are sorely lacking in qualified, professional staff.

Afghanistan's Capacity Building for Results (CBR) programme aims to solve that problem by offering training, hiring services and technical assistance to government offices.

"The CBR office works in co-operation and co-ordination with 44 government institutions, including 30 ministries and other government organisations," said CBR Director Najib Wardak.

"We prioritise major institutions, including those working in such fields as tax collection, public health and job creation," he told Salaam Times. "We have allocated 80% of our budget to the aforementioned institutions, while the other 20% goes to other government agencies."

"So far, 900 professional staff have been employed to meet the objectives of the CBR programme," he added. "By the end of 2017, a total of 1,500 professional and knowledgeable individuals with a commitment to reform will be recruited in government offices."

Thirty percent of those slots are set aside for women, he said.

CBR's goals include "reforming government institutions, increasing the working capacities in government offices, simplifying business processes, providing excellent service to the people and implementing standards that have been established by reform programmes", said Wardak.

Strong political support

"This programme enjoys strong support from the government and specifically the president," said Wardak, adding that information sharing and accountability are major reasons for its success.

"We send a monthly report on CBR performance to the Council of Ministers [led by Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah] and a similar report to the cabinet [led by President Ashraf Ghani] every four months," he said. "For that reason, the process is quickly moving forward."

The Afghan government launched CBR in 2012 with a total budget of 10 billion AFN ($150 million) provided through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank.

The first phase of CBR runs through the end of 2017 and is on track to meet its goals, according to Wardak.

"So far, this programme has had positive and acceptable outcomes," he said.

ARTF has already approved a budget of 23.4 billion AFN ($350 million) for the next phase, which runs through 2022, he said.

Overcoming dearth of professionals

"Lack of capacity and lack of professional cadres in government institutions are the greatest challenge faced by the government," said Parwiz Ali, whom CBR recruited three months ago to serve as the head of investment and marketing promotion at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum.

"The CBR programme, however, has been able to partially overcome such problems and challenges by recruiting professional, knowledgeable and experienced individuals," Ali, who has a doctorate in business administration, told Salaam Times.

He urged the government to assign more duties to the newly hired professionals so that they can utilise their skills and experience in reforming government offices.

Niloufar Langari also participated in the CBR programme and competed with hundreds of applicants for a job.

She beat out 11 other short-listed candidates to become chief of press and publications at the Urban Development and Housing Ministry.

Continuity of CBR is an urgent need, she said.

"Currently, government institutions have only a very limited number of the professionals whom they need," she told Salaam Times.

"Afghanistan needs professional men and women for its progress," she said.

A step in the right direction

More needs to be done, Marouf Qader, president of the National Union of Workers in Afghanistan, told Salaam Times.

"The ministries and other government institutions are faced with significant management and leadership challenges mainly because of the shortage -- and even lack of -- of trained and skilled personnel," he told Salaam Times.

Implementation of the government's strategic plans has been deficient even though it received generous international aid, he said.

"In order to ... reform the government and to fight corruption seriously, and finally to step up capacity, the government must design and carry out a plan much greater than the CBR programme," said Qader.

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