Reform the Public Sector

One legacy of conflict in Afghanistan had been the capture of state institutions by strongmen, resulting in deeply entrenched patronage networks. Foundational reforms have been underway since 2014 to address the wrongs of this legacy in order to restore transparency and fairness to government recruitment, and ensure service-delivery is a basic right of Afghan citizens. Goals of public sector reforms under the National Unity Government, as laid out in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework and the National Strategy for Combatting Corruption include 1) building a responsive and effective public administration system, and 2) replacing patronage with merit in the civil service. The Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC), under the leadership of Chairman Nader Nadery, is at the core of implementing public sector reforms and has undertaken sweeping changes across the civil service since 2016 to professionalize government and cut patronage and corruption from the system.

Achieved (3/6): 50.0 %Achieved (3/6): 50.0 %Partially acheivedand on-going (3/6):50.0 %Partially acheivedand on-going (3/6):50.0 %Partially acheived and on-going (3/6)Percentage: 50.0%


– Reforming the civil service by revising existing laws and enacting new ones, including changes to the Civil Servants Law

 PROGRESS: –Achieved.
A number of public administration laws have been reviewed and revised and new laws and policies enacted over the past few years. Further laws are in the pipeline. Find a list of laws here. Some of the key laws and policies include:
  • Newly amended Civil Servants Law endorsed by President Ashraf Ghani in March 2018 reinstated the authority of the Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Services Commission’s (IARCSC) Appointment Board to recruit civil servants in the Rank B Grades 1 and 2 and to monitor recruitment of lower grades by the respective institutions, including civil servants in the Judiciary. The law also states that civil servants who are terminated from duty or sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one year for corruption crimes are barred from serving in the civil service for five years. If a civil servant is sentenced to imprisonment of more than one year, he or she is permanently barred from ever serving in the civil service. In addition to instituting merit-based recruitment procedures, the amendments also outlined a performance appraisal system and disciplinary sanctions for civil servants.
  • The Law on Administrative Procedure was drafted and approved by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled. This law is the first of its kind in the country. It help resolve disputes between employees and employers using principles of legality, equality, impartiality, and access to lawful information. It is published in the Official Gazette, Extraordinary Issue No. 1298 dated April 4, 2018.
  • An anti-sexual harassment policy was implemented in 2016 across the public sector, and an anti-sexual harassment law passed in 2018
  • The IARCSC introduced a Gender Integration Policy in 2018 to increase the number of women in government. The IARCSC estimates that 22% of government employees are women, with the goal is to increase that to 30% over the next 5 years. The goal for 2018 is to increase the number of women by 2%.The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) reports that women account for 22.5% of Civil Service employees, representing a 0.6% increase compared to 2015. In the recruitment process, women are awarded five extra points in both written and oral phases of the exam, part of a positive discrimination strategy.
– Establishing, maintaining and improving professionalism
 PROGRESS: – Partially achieved and on-going.
The Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, under the leadership of IARCSC Chairman Ahmad Nader Nadery, has undertaken sweeping reforms across the civil service since 2016 to professionalize government and cut patronage and corruption from the system. Some of the key reforms include:
  • Drafting and implementing procedures to improve ministerial structures, enhance transparency in recruitment in order to prevent interference and influence of individuals in recruiting processes. Procedures address the following areas: super skills, mass recruitment exams, performance appraisal of IARCSC regional offices, staff recruitment for Afghanistan’s Cus- toms Department, Ariana Afghan Airlines, Afghan Milli Bus Enterprise, appointment of mayors in
  • provincial centers and grade 2 mayors in district centers.
  • Drafting and implementing a number of policies, including a policy on the reform in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, mass recruitment of deputy provincial governors and district governors policy, policy on recruitment of cultural attachés, and staff absence policy.
  • Instituting and implementing merit-based, transparent mass recruitment across the country for all government bodies and institutions, to cut patronage practices from civil service recruitment.  Results of mass recruitment efforts so far have included hiring 697 new staff across government procurement departments; introduction of merit-based recruitment for teachers at the Ministry of Education; and 177,00 positions (rank 5 & 6) including 8,000 teacher positions advertised for open competition. Of note is the reformed recruitment process for teachers, which used to be centered on  bribe-taking. The collective exam was administered in 34 provinces in the presence of civil society representatives. Around 280,000 people applied, of which 225,670 applicants were eligible to take the tests. To ensure transparency and prevent any undue interference, the applicants were biometrically registered and exam papers were evaluated electronically.
  • Design and development of the Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS) is ongoing.
  • Following Ministries have been evaluated and had reform efforts initiated: Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Public Health, Mines and Petroleum, Commerce and Industry, Refugees and Repatriation, Hajj and Endowment, Energy and Water, Counter Narcotics, Education, Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), the Kabul Municipality, the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) and the Afghanistan National Standards Authority (ANSA).
  • The IARCSC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) recently signed a joint reform agreement. As a result, 16 MoFA staff members were retired in accordance with the provisions enshrined in article 138 of the Labour Law and approved by the Promotion and Retirement Commission.  Furthermore, 49 MoFA staff members who failed to present their bachelor’s degrees were dismissed through a presidential decree.
  • Working with Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) on recruitment and performance assessment of deputy governors, district governors, and mayors.
  • Drafted a reform plan for financial and administrative offices for the line ministries and independent agencies. At the end of 2017, 37 public administration institutions had established a monitoring and evaluation unit.
  • Established a customers service center, a one-stop-shop for all needs.
  • To improve and streamline management of civil servants, the IARCSC instituted a regulation for speeding up work and eliminating discrimination. The IARCSC also simplified the 30 common work processes.
  • A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is being developed to facilitate communications between the IARCSC headquarters and field offices.
– Expanding the use of performance based management
 PROGRESS: – Achieved.
  • The Capacity Building for Results Program (CBR) is an Afghan-led institutional reform and capacity building program that extends civil service training, technical assistance, and project management assistance to improve the capacity and performance of the core line ministries. Under the NUG, the CBR was integrated into the IARCSC and reformed, merging two CBR units into one that is structurally and organizationally smaller and more effective. In 2017, significant progress was made in expanding the CBR, with 1,273 positions filled through the program post-2016 in comparison to only 144 positions before 2016
– Enhancing the effectiveness of service delivery through the Citizens’ Charter
 PROGRESS: – Partially achieved and on-going.
Recognizing the centrality of convenient delivery of quality services to the Afghan people, the NUG has initiated a number of reforms to increase effectiveness of service delivery, including the following:
  • To read about service delivery through the Citizen’s Charter program, visit this link.
  • IARCSC has set up an in-house one-stop-shop to streamline customer service. From December 2017 to March 2018, 14,876 people accessed services from the IARCSC one stop shops.
  • IARCSC has also worked closely with numerous ministries to streamline service-delivery across government. So far, the following process have been reformed:
  • The National Medicine and Health Products Regulatory Authority at the Ministry of Public Health has initiated opening pharmaceutical medicines wholesalers and pharmacies in the provinces.
  • The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) has initiated process to license private companies, handle urban development sketching, and address housing distribution.
  • Ministry of Information and Culture has initiated processes to license print media and audio-visual media in the capital and provinces.
  • The Ministry of Interior and the Civil Service Commission are working together to support the MoI’s process of civilianization and reform, which aims to de-militarize 10,000 positions within MoI. So far, the IARCSC identified 4,010 military positions in the finance and budgeting departments, the Inspector General unit, and the passport department of the MoI that will be filled via transparent civil service recruitment processes. The terms of reference and MoI tashkeel are currently being prepared and modified.
  • Asan Khedmat is the NUG’s landmark consolidated service delivery center. It facilitates public service delivery for public entities under one roof in a quick and easy manner. It is modeled after Azerbaijan’s consolidated public service delivery model. A new building to house Asan Khedmat is currently being constructed in Kabul city, with branches planned throughout the provinces. To date, 12 processes and services have been streamlined and digitized, including electronic passports that comply with International Civil Aviation Organization standards, work permit application, visa extension, and population registration. Mobile salary payments have been implemented at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled and are now being rolled out across government. Work in on-going to roll out further services, and multiple trainings have been delivered across government to institutionalize Asan Khedmat systems.
  • Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan are now able to get e-passports without having to return to Afghanistan.
  • The legislative decree on amending article 6 of the Population Registration Law has been endorsed, and roll-out of the electronic identification starts (e-tazkira) commenced in February 2018.
  • Services for Hajis (religious pilgrims to Mecca) were improved, including the distribution of smart bracelets and electronic passports, and a reduction in fees.
  • Ministry of Communications and Technology has made significant reforms to the Afghan Post, the national postal service. Afghan Post is launching the country’s first post office box program in Kabul in Macroyan neighborhood.
  • In November 2018, amendments to the Law on Managing Communication Services converted the Afghanistan Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (ATRA) into an independent authority, and addressed increasing communication and internet service across villages and rural areas, and strengthening telecoms access of medical and educational centers.
  • In 2017, Kankor, the national university entrance exam, once notorious for being rife with corruption, underwent rigorous scrutiny and reform. Managerial and technical reforms, as well as digitizing the exam and assigning each applicant with a biometric identification number, have cut opportunities for patronage and increased transparency. The exams were also assessed electronically. As a result, the percentage of failed applicants dropped from 45% in 2014 to 13% in 2015. 147,000 out of 169,000 applicants who sat for the Kankor passed the exam.
– Improving accountability and transparency
 PROGRESS: – Partially achieved and on-going.
The NUG has taken multiple actions across government to improve accountability and transparency, which has been one of the main goals of reform efforts. A few key achievements are listed below:
  • A large part of increasing accountability and transparency across government has been implementing e-governance and open government reforms to international standards. Read more about those reforms here.
  • Transparency in public procurement and government contracting has vastly improved, with he creation the National Procurement Authority (NPA) and strict procurement policies and regulations put in place. The NPA publishes limited information on most government procurement contracts. To read more on the NPA, visit this link.
  • The NUG published eight key budget documents for the 2018 national budget
  • The new Access to Information Law, which ensures citizens’ rights to access information, passed in 2014 was significant amended in early 2018 after feedback on the 2014 law from civil society and media. The amended law creates an independent commission with an independent budget, whose five members are selected by a committee and approved by the President. The new Law also protects whistle blowers. The Oversight Commission on Access to Information was established and in mid-2017 launched the national strategy on access to information, titled Putting Access to Information in Practice.
  • The Office of the President established a complaints center so the Afghan public is able to submit complaints and concerns about the administration.
  • The Copyright Law was passed to protect the intellectual property of authors, composers, artists, and researchers.
  • Afghan national radio and television (RTA) has extended coverage to more remote areas, and radio and television broadcasts has increased by 3% and 23.6%, respectively, under the NUG.
  • he Regulation on Private Mass Media clarified all matters of mass media operations, including standards for journalist’s occupational safety. In this new regulation, media ownership fees have decreased up to 90%.
  • The amendment of the Mass Media Law allows for the establishment of a commission for addressing media complaints and violations. The government also set up the Joint Coordination Committee for the Safety of Journalists and Media. So far, 86% of 172 cases of violence against journalists have been reviewed and settled.
– Establishing guidelines to reward excellence and discipline underperformance
 PROGRESS: – Achieved.
  • In May 2018, the IARCSC launched an awards program, the Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Award, in May 2018 to recognize and award excellence, efficiency, productivity and creativity in public service.
  • The Civil Servants law, newly amended in March 2018, instituted a merit-based recruitment procedure as well as outlining a performance appraisal system and disciplinary sanctions for civil servants.
  • The Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS) is in development, which provides accurate statistical information on civil servants, which was lacking in the past was lacking in the past.The HRMIS records accurate information about civil servants in the capital and provinces as well as information about personnel affairs. The IARCSC has recently purchased 80 biometric registration kits to record civil servant information.