At a conference held on Saturday in Khost province, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) said that the infrastructural demands of the Khost were desperate and should be met as quickly as possible.
At the conference titled "Development Conference of Khost Province," restidents of Khost demanded that the government put more resources into infrastructural development and ensure that the Khost Airport construction is completed soon, along with several other projects.
The United Nations' office in Kabul and several other aid agencies responded to the statements made at the conference and promised to continue providing aid for development purposes in the province.
The IDLG also spoke about its achievements in the field of education, economy and other development programs in Khost. According to IDLG officials, since Khost shares its border with Pakistan there is ample opportunity to construct dams and improve agricultural and business ties with Pakistan.
However, the IDLG pointed out that a number of incomplete and pending projects are still a major challenge that need to be addressed.
"Construction of water dams, completion of airport projects, completion of infrastructural projects at the Ghulam Khan Port, access to improved agricultural techniques, protection of facilities and providing energy are some of the topics that were discussed in the conference," said Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the Director of the IDLG.
Several groups that participated in the conference said that Khost is at a strategic location that gives it great economic promise.
Asif Rahimi, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, and Wais Ahmad Barmak, the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development were also present at the conference. They talked about agricultural reforms and ways to improve the living conditions of the Khost residents.
Khost is one of the eastern provinces of the country. The province has 10 official districts and 3 unofficial districts, with a population of around 1.1 million.
In response to the recent report highlighting supposed financial mismanagement within the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), William Hammink, Mission Director to Afghanistan for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that there is no concrete evidence to prove financial aid has been misused.
Although he was clear in stating that USAID would be continuing to help the MoPH with funding, he also was careful to show appreciation for SIGAR and the work it does.
"We welcome the role of the Inspector General because that is an important part of what we do to make sure that our programs are successful. As much as we feel confident that our programs are being successful, we always welcome an independent view to make sure that in effect we are achieving our goals," Mr. Hammink said.
"In the case of Afghanistan and in the case of Iraq, because the programs have been very large and because there has been so much funding not only from the USAID but also from the State Department, the Special Inspector General was created," he explained.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ken Yamashita, the head of the USAID Afghanistan, emphasized the fact that their programmes with Public Health have been successful and that there has been no financial malfeasance.
"I am fully satisfied and convinced that there has been no misuse whatsoever of our resources and the programs truly have been successful," Dr. Yamashita said.
Last week, MoPH officials refuted the charges lodged in the report and said that all aid money has been utilized in a transparent manner.
Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health, called SIGAR's report "baseless" and said that there are major gaps in their findings. The Minister challenged SIGAR to prove the accusations it made of corruption and mismanagement.
The SIGAR report advised USAID to withhold all future funding for the MoPH on the basis of there being high chances of misuse given its past observations. The report mentioned that defective accounting and corruption were key issues inside the Ministry.
In response to the report's allegations, the MoPH assured that the Ministry and its employees are ready to provide all necessary information regarding past utilisation of funds. However, it would appear USAID does not intend to pursue any out of the ordinary verification measures, at least not publically.
The Ministry of Mines (MoM) on Sunday said that the delay in Parliament's approval of the New Law on Mines was hampering the Afghan economy by keeping interested foreign investors from injecting capital and producing employment opportunities in the mining sector.
MoM officials said that the draft of the Law on Mines was sent to the National Assembly for approval two months ago, but remains held up.
"The approval of the New Law on Mines is the only way we can attract more foreign investors to Afghanistan and they are worried about the approval of this law," said Mohammad Rafi Rafiq Sediqi, spokesperson of the MoM.
"Several companies have expressed interest in investing in the mining sector. But due to delay in the New Law on Mines approval, they have not been able to start their work," said Mohammad Ibrahim Shams, the deputy head of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA).
Several economic experts warned that if the law is not approved at all, Afghanistan would surely miss out on major investments that have been discussed for tapping its promising mineral deposits.
"The delay in approving the Law on Mines will have an adverse effect on economic progress in Afghanistan," said Azrakhsh Hafizi, the head of the International Relations Committee at the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI).
Meanwhile, the Administrative Board of the Lower House said that the Law would be on the agenda in the near future.
"We are holding a meeting[...]to prepare the agenda for the coming week. We hope that all Laws are put on the priority list. We will try to include the New Law on Mines as well for its approval," said Sayed Ikram, the Secretary of the Lower House.
Economic experts have said that opening up the mining sector to foreign investments should be made a priority, but in this case, it appears the legislative process has trumped business stratagem.
The Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) on Sunday signed a contract with an Indian company, Gammon India, to transfer 20KW electricity from Mazar-e-Sharif to Marmul and Khulm districts in northern Balkh province.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction recently released a report centring on supposed financial mismanagement within the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has been repudiated by the Ministry. The MoPH rejected all of the charges lodged in the report and said that all aid money has been utilized in a transparent manner.
Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health, called SIGAR's report "baseless" and said that there are major gaps in their findings. The Minister challenged SIGAR to prove the accusations it makes of corruption and mismanagement.
The SIGAR reported advised the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to withhold all future funding for the MoPH on the basis of there being high chances of misuse given past observations. The report mentioned that defective accounting and corruption were key issues inside the Ministry.
In response to the report's allegations, the Minister of Public Health assured that the Ministry and its employees are ready to provide all necessary information regarding past utilisation of funds.
"I and all employees of the Ministry of Public Health are ready to provide any information to the government and donor countries," said Ms. Dalil. "We assure the people of Afghanistan and the tax payers of donor countries that all funds donated to the Ministry of Public Health have been spent in the right manner and all records are available."
The SIGAR report requested that USAID hold their aid to the MoPH until it provided a complete account of their expenses. However, the Minister of Public Health challenged the SIGAR to prove their findings.
"We invite the SIGAR to provide us all the evidence and explain how we have mismanaged donor funds," Ms. Dalil said.
As of this moment, USAID has already pledged to grant a tranche of $200 million to the Ministry.
The MoPH said that every year the Afghan government and several private foreign audit institutions inspect the office's expenses, and so far, they have not found anything that would indicate the type of financial mismanagement SIGAR claimed.