UNDP responds to Media Reports on Afghan Police Audit

28 Apr 2011

Media reports about a special audit of the Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel management systems unfairly characterize the findings of that investigation. They leave the impression that the Afghan Ministry of Interior’s police payroll system, which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is fraught with lax accounting for staff and money and subject to fraud and abuse. This is incorrect and fails to take into account the significant accomplishments of the program and the challenging Afghan context.

The UNDP-led Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, funded by 19 countries, has provided technical support in the design and administration of the payroll system managed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior. UNDP cooperated fully with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its review of ANP personnel management systems, including payroll, and largely agrees with its recommendations. Furthermore, the overall evaluation of the program’s performance should recognize several basic and critical achievements:

Today 80 percent of the more than 120,000 Afghan police receive their salaries through safe, verifiable electronic funds transfer (EFT), whereas four years ago, this figure was less than one percent. The rapid expansion of EFT has significantly reduced the potential for fraud or inaccurate payments.

Because the security situation varies greatly among provinces, any national program must be implemented with varying expectations of risk, depending on local circumstances. Further expansion of EFT will depend on the opening of branches of commercial banks at the provincial and district levels, particularly in inaccessible and less secure areas, but all police are now paid directly, electronically, in regions where banks are operational.

For the 20 percent of police in inaccessible areas who are still paid in cash rather than by EFT, the Ministry of Interior has taken significant steps to minimize risks. Cash is never disbursed by the unit commander alone, but by a committee of at least three members from various departments. Police signatures confirming receipt of salary are reviewed by the unit head. A pilot to test payment by cell phone transfer has shown promise and is being expanded from the 220 police currently covered to 25 additional districts, covering 4,600 police. This will further reduce the percentage of police paid in cash and increase the transparency of the payroll system.

While the audit emphasizes discrepancies among the five separate personnel/payroll systems maintained by the Ministry of Interior, UNDP works only with the fifth system, the Electronic Payroll System (EPS), developed by UNDP LOFTA, which includes 99 percent of the police and has proven to be the most reliable, credible, and updated automated payroll system run by the Government of Afghanistan to date. Indeed, the Ministry of Defense is considering the adoption of the EPS for the army payroll.

UNDP has used an independent monitoring agent since 2009 to review police payments on a monthly basis and improve the capacity of the financial staff in provincial and district police offices. UNDP has carefully followed up on all issues raised by the independent monitoring agent and external auditors, provided capacity development training as needed, and resolved these cases as they have arisen with the Ministry of Interior and responsible offices. UNDP has also hosted regular verification missions from the 19 contributing LOTFA partners, including those of Germany in 2008 and the European Union in 2009.

Finally, as the audit notes, “the development of complete and reliable payroll and personnel processes, records, and reporting and centralized personnel and payroll systems that are linked throughout Afghanistan cannot be achieved without improved security, infrastructure, and coordination.” This, of course, is what the Afghan people and the international community strive for. But we all know it will not happen tomorrow. While we work toward that goal, the police must still be paid if security is to improve. Working with the Afghan government, the United States, and other contributing nations, UNDP, despite extremely difficult conditions on the ground, will continue to make sure those payments are made in the most reliable and accountable way possible.