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. 


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

PROGRESS: – Achieved.
A number of laws and legislative documents have been reviewed and revised and new laws and policies enacted over the past few years. Further laws such as the State Administration Law, E-Governance Law and Cadre Regulations are in the pipeline. . Find a list of laws here. Some of the key laws and policies include:
  1. The amended Civil Servants Law, endorsed by President Ashraf Ghani in March 2018, reinstated the authority of the IARCSC to recruit civil servants in Grades 1 and 2 of Tier (B) and to monitor recruitment of lower grades by other line ministries and agencies, including the 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 on grounds of corruption are barred from serving in the civil service for five years. If the imprisonment exceeds one year, he/she is permanently barred from serving in the civil service. In addition to instituting merit-based recruitment procedures, the amendments also provided for a performance appraisal system and disciplinary sanctions for civil servants.
  2. The Law on Administrative Procedure was approved by the Cabinet on 13/12/1396. This Law was developed by the IARCSC in cooperation and coordination with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. This Law is the first of its kind in the country. It regulates the relationship between citizens and public officials and institutions and provides for principles which shall be adhered to by the public institutions and officials. It is published in the Official Gazette, Extraordinary Issue No. 1298 dated April 4, 2018.
  3. The Law on Prevention of Harassment of Women and Children was put to effect through the Official Gazette on 1396.09.29. Subsequently a procedure on prevention of harassment of Women and Children in the Work Place was developed by the IARCSC
  4. The IARCSC introduced a Gender Integration Policy in 2018 to increase the number of women in the government.  Based on the data in the year 2018, 22% of government employees were women.  The goal for 2018 was to increase the number of women by 2% and subsequently enhancing that to 30% over the next 5 years. By early 2020, the data gathered from LMAs indicated female civil servants to account for 27.6% of the civil service employees, an increase of 5.6% from the base (22%). However, the recent biometric and verified data generated from the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS), from 50 ministries and agencies show the actual percentage of women within the civil service as 29.39%. 
  5. In addition, to support increased participation of women in civil service, in the recruitment process, women are awarded five extra points in both written and oral phases of the exam which is part of an affirmative action. In addition, a number of high-level civil servants positions were advertised and recruited female only.

–Improving and maintaining professionalism

PROGRESS: – Achieved and on-going.
  1. 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 2017 to professionalize government and cut patronage and corruption from the system.
  2. The need for clean, transparent and efficient public institutions enjoys deep seated public support. Citizens have long seen the civil service as susceptible to patronage and corruption. The IARCSC has made significant strides towards bringing greater efficiency, integrity and accountability to civil service recruitment and reform,  and is widely recognized for driving these reforms at an accelerated pace. 
  3. Over the past three years, the IARCSC’s efforts have been concentrated principally on reducing systematic nepotism and unfair practices in hiring of the Afghan public servants. The IARCSC has undertaken several initiatives to improve transparency, reduce the level of human intervention and expedite the recruitment process. The first, and the most crucial step include bringing necessary amendments to the civil servants law; followed also by revision and amendments of the recruitment procedures. For example, these amendments ensures a significant reduction in the recruitment timeline from an average of 12 months to 45-55 days only.
  4. The integrity of the appointment process has been further enhanced with the establishment of computer-based exam centers equipped with advanced technology, in Kabul and across six provinces to replace the traditional paper-based approach. With the use of these centers, exams for the civil service positions in the capital and provinces are computerized. The current exam centers are stationed in the IARCSC’s Kabul office, Afghanistan Civil Service Institute (Kabul), Balkh, Kandahar, Herat, Nangarhar, Khost and Bamyan provinces. These centers securely connect the provinces to the central question bank during the exams through a credible and secure network.  A direct result of these reforms has been possibility of upward mobility for poor and disconnected people into the government system. The IARCSC has also initiated the establishment of 13 more provinces.  
  5. The IARCSC has also launched an online recruitment system for senior positions. The system not only ensures high level of transparency in the recruitment process but also makes it easier for applicants to apply for their position of interest in an organized manner. General public, the media, and civil society can also monitor and access non-confidential information through the system. The electronic recruitment system was developed in-house by the IARCSC’s IT experts. 
  6. To further enhance the recruitment efficiency, the IARCSC has established the Exam Content Research and Development Center (ECRDC). The center is responsible for development of contents and competency framework for the civil servants examinations.  So far, the center has produced  20000 thousands questions in Dari, Pashto and English languages through research into thematic areas of the core and common function of senior civil servant positions to assess the candidate’s suitability for a job. Work by this center added to the institutional safeguarding of quality and merit based recruitment and further cut corruption in hiring processes. 
  7. During the course of the last three years a substantial number of vacant positions were filled, 63592 civil servants at the senior and lower grades have been recruited across the Ministries and government agencies through the merit-based recruitment systems. These entails both, the positions directly recruited by the IARCSC, and the ones monitored. 
  8. In the year 2019, the IARCSC also launched its five-year strategic plan (2020-2025). The Strategic Plan is the outcome of a wider consultation with stakeholders, government ministries, civil society, media representatives, a review of the first strategic plan, and extensive research in addressing the broader reform initiatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The strategy is based on six strategic pillars, which correspond to the functions of the IARCSC, including: the Appointments Board; Appeals Board; Civil Service Management (CSM); Civil Service Institute (CSI); Administrative Reform Secretariat (ARS), with the addition of a pillar that gives emphasis to strategic communications and public relations.
Other the key reforms include:
  1. Drafting and implementing procedures to improve ministerial structures, enhance transparency and to prevent interference and influence of individuals in recruitment processes. The following are some of the Regulations developed so far:
    • Regulations on Cadres of Customs, recruitment and personnel affairs of A-level positions (including deputy ministers), Supreme Audit Office, Procurement and HR; 
    • The Regulation on Civil Servant’s Code of Conduct was amended as well.
    • The following are some of the Procedures developed so far:
    • Mas Recruitment, Managing Electronic Examinations Center, Internal Audit, Civil Servant’s Performance Appraisal, Appraisal of IARCSC’s Regional Offices, Ariana Afghan Airlines and Milli Bus Enterprise Procedures, Golden Handshake, Attending to Citizens and their Affairs, Appointment of Mayors in Provincial Centers and Grade 2 Mayors in District Centers, Recruitment of Disabled Persons in Civil Service Organizations, Procedure on Access to Information,
  2. Design, development and roll out of the Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS). A major strive towards a sustainable reform has been the introduction of Human Resource Information Management System (HRMIS). In response to the emerging need for modernization and automation of HR processes in the public sector, the IARCSC has launched the Human Resource Information Management System (HRMIS). HRMIS is a computerized information system used to digitalize the human resource functions. It improves the efficiency of HR, ensures Human Resource Management (HRM) enhancement and effectiveness, facilitates electronic data capture, eliminates HRM redundant data/systems and helps in identification of ghost employees. The system is built in-house by the IARCSC’s technical team with a very minimum cost.  This product is an outcome of adhering to standard software development and has the potential to accommodate multi organization data. Some of the most important features and modules included in the HRMIS application comprise of Tashkeel (Organization Structure), Sawaneh/Personal Records, Biometric, Attendance, Payroll, Performance Evaluation and Capacity Building modules.  This application has also many other modules that are used for administration, configuration, users management, and data collection tracking.  There has been substantial progress with respect to the roll out of the system across the civil service entities.  From 55 government entities, the organizational structure of 50 public institutions have been added to the system. The biometric and biographic data of 322,411 civil servants at the center and subnational level have been also collected with exception of 15 districts in remote provinces.
  3. The 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, Education, Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Labour and Social Affairs, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), the Kabul Municipality, the National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) and the Afghanistan National Standards Authority (ANSA).
  4. A comprehensive reform plan in the MoFA was drafted by IARCSC and approved by H.E President. 
  5. IARCSC also finalized the foreign language skill assessment of MoFA staffs. 
  6. The IARCSC has been working with the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) on performance assessment of district governors, and mayors. The commission has also supported IDLG in recruitment of these positions through a competitive-based process and predefined criteria. 
  7. At the end of 2017, 37 public sector institutions had established a monitoring and evaluation unit.
  8. Established a customer’s service center, a one-stop-shop for all needs.
  9. After a thorough assessment of the current working procedures and their efficiency, the IARCSC has simplified  34  complex work processes in the Ministries of Public Health, Urban Development and Housing, Information and Culture, Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, National Environmental Protection Agency and the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) agency. 
  10. The IARCSC has also initiated a process of improving the organizational culture of civil service institutions. 
  11. A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has been developed to facilitate communications between the IARCSC headquarters and field offices.

– Expanding the use of performance-based management

PROGRESS: – Achieved and ongoing
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.
  1. The CBR project ended on 31st December 2018 and was replaced with the Tackling Afghanistan Government HRM and Institutional Reforms (TAGHIR) project.  TAGHIR aims to strengthen the capacity of selected line ministries and agencies (LMAs) through merit-based recruitment of key positions, improved personnel management, and better HR planning. The project has three key components including: 1) Human Resource Capacity Injection 2) Personnel and Payroll Management and 3) Support to Administrative Reforms. 
  2. With the closure of the CBR project, the IARCSC in close coordination with the LMAs conducted an assessment to identify the essential and non-essential positions covered in CBR. As a result, the contracts for 420 non-essential positions were terminated and only 672 legacy contracts from CBR were transferred to TAGHIR.
  3. TAGHIR has set clear benchmarks both for the priority LMAs and each TAGHIR appointees. To hold priority LMAs accountable for realizing their commitments to reforms; IARCSC completed evaluation of priority LMAs based on TAGHIR performance and LMA specific benchmarks in November/December 2019. LMAs will be sanctioned if it fails to meet these targets. Each TAGHIR appointees have been also evaluated based on new performance appraisal mechanism developed by the IARCSC
  4. TAGHIR has been also supporting IARCSC’s reform agenda through fostering administrative reforms and pay-professionalism across public institutions. Establishment of Cadre Regulations (Customs, Procurement, HR, Supreme Audit Office); Functional Review of Ministries and Agencies, HRMIS roll-out across public institutions and funding the establishment of 8 exam centers at the provincial level are among few examples. 

– 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 government initiated several reforms to increase effectiveness of service delivery, including the following:
  1. To read about service delivery through the Citizen’s Charter program, visit this link.
  2. IARCSC has set up an in-house one-stop-shop to streamline customer service.  Since its establishment in 2018, 108026 people have accessed services in IARCSC’s one stop shop.  
  3. IARCSC has also worked closely with numerous ministries to streamline service-delivery across government. Some of the key reforms are highlighted below. 
    • The IARCSC has conducted functional reviews of the Ministry of Water and Energy, Information and Technology and Supreme Audit Office. There has been substantial progress with regard to the review in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. The functional review of Ministry of Finance is ongoing. The IARCSC was also involved in the Functional Review process of the Ministry of Education which was carried out based on HE President’s directive.  
    • 284488 Terms of Reference were developed and revised in line with Ministries/agencies objectives
    • 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 worked together to support the MoI’s process of civilianization and reform, which aimed to de-militarize positions within MoI. The de-militarization process has been completed. 
  4. 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.
  5. Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan are now able to get e-passports without having to return to Afghanistan.
  6. 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.
  7. Services for Hajis (religious pilgrims to Mecca) were improved, including the distribution of smart bracelets and electronic passports, and a reduction in fees.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The NUG published eight key budget documents for the 2018 national budget
  4. 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.
  5. The Office of the President established a complaints center, so the Afghan public is able to submit complaints and concerns about the administration.
  6. The Copyright Law was passed to protect the intellectual property of authors, composers, artists, and researchers.
  7. 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.
  8. The 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%.
  9. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.