Afghanistan aid riddled with corruption

Development minister argues that the amount of corruption is minimal compared to the overall amount of aid sent to Afghanistan

Documents gleaned from the Foreign Ministry via a freedom of information request by Information newspaper suggest that the millions of kroner Denmark sends to Afghanistan in development aid each year is heavily subject to corruption.

Danish aid programmes, which send 530 million kroner to Afghanistan every year, have experienced at least ten cases of corruption since 2005.

One case involves an Afghan minister using donor funds to purchase an apartment, while another saw an accountant running off with $40,000 after a trip to the bank.

“The cases illustrate that corruption exists in all levels in the Afghan society,” Christian Bayer Tygesen, an Afghanistan expert from the University of Copenhagen, told Information.

Tygesen went on to say that it would be naive to believe that Denmark could completely avoid corruption cases, while Christian Bjørnskov, a lecturer and researcher of international economics at Aarhus University, believes that the ten cases were only the tip of the iceberg.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly how much Danish money has disappeared into the pockets of the wrong people because Denmark usually gives aid to common-pooling projects.

Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, pledged to guard Danish aid from corruption when he visited Denmark a few weeks ago, but three out of the ten corruption cases involved his own administration.

“We know very well that Karzai’s promise isn’t worth much,” Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), the development minister, told Information. “Yet, the corruption that afflicts the Danish development aid funds is very minimal compared to the overall aid amount given to Afghanistan.”

It was just a few weeks ago that the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), decided to triple Danish aid to the security of the war-torn country while also increasing development aid. The aid increase to Afghanistan will be funded by a cut in aid to African countries such as Tanzania, Benin, and Zambia, as well as the Central American nation of Nicaragua, all of which will receive less, or no aid at all, from Denmark in the future. Conversely, last month aid began to flow once again to Zimbabwe.

Denmark has given over 3.5 billion kroner of development aid to Afghanistan since 2002.