July 20, 2010Doug Hadden
I took exception to the sensational reporting on government corruption in Afghanistan last week. The Wall Street Journal broke a story about the sacks of money leaving Afghanistan in aircraft. Predictable moral indignation and blaming the Government of Afghanistan ensued. Yet, none of these funds seemed come on-budget through the government financial system. (That’s the kind of subtle fact that interfers with the media narrative). Just yesterday, the IMF PFM blog posted a report about the success of the government financial management system! I wonder whether this will be analyzed on cable news channels.
The article describes the successful sequencing of the Afghanistan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS) by the Government. The system was recently completed the roll-out to all provinces or mustafiats. All national line ministries are also integrated. This means that 100% of all on-budget funds will operate through AFMIS. And, this was accomplished by the Government under difficult circumstances. The IMF article provides good insight into lessons learned, especially in sequencing PFM reform.
Of course, one factor for the success of AFMIS is that it is the FreeBalance Accountability Suite. Government Resource Planning (GRP) systems enable PFM reform. But, reform is the responsibility of the government. There are some factors of why the FreeBalance Accountability Suite enabled reform in Afghanistan – rather than inhibiting reform – one of the problems in the public sector worldwide:
- Support of simple configurations that can be progressively activated over time to support reform and increased capacity
- Vendor commitment to add features and use SWAT teams when problems occur – which happened
- No customization by the client necessary to make systems easier to manage and sustain
- Experience in similar circumstances built into the software
It is now time to stop blaming the victim for off-budget corruption. It’s also time to recognize the Government of Afghanistan for successes.