COVID19 spending transparency; information should be made public

If the government spending and resources to fight the Coronavirus in different provinces are not made transparent, it could lead to an unmanageable disaster. The Commission of Inquiry warns that if the government and the relevant administrations conceal COVID-19 spending reports, it indicates corruption. In the meantime, journalists say that the information provided to the media by the government, especially the Committee for Combating the Outbreak of the Coronavirus, is not sufficient, which raises doubts amongst public. A budget of AFN 6.7 billion have been allocated by the government to combat the Coronavirus outbreak in the capital and provinces of Afghanistan. The Commission on the Right of Access to Information states that at this critical time, there must be accountability from the relevant offices, and in the provinces, information the assistance and expenditures provided by the government agencies must be made available to the public in written. The commission wants the government, including governors and aid agencies, to be accountable to civil society and the media, if needed. The Ministry of Public Health says that every institution is obliged to have a clear account of the expenditures on foreign aid and the government’s budget in the fight against COVID-19. The Health Ministry’s Spokesperson indicates that corruption in the institutions responsible for fighting against the virus is a betrayal to the nation and the country. Some reporters say that the government’s information, especially the Anti-Coronavirus Committee, is not sufficient to reassure the public, as only the head of the organization has made a multi-page report public on the committee’s spending in a matter of months. The Coronavirus Committee, led by Waheed Omer, an adviser to the president, was established nearly a month ago. In total, it has spent money on media coverage of the Coronavirus awareness, and the Ministry of Health has spent US$15 million so far to fight the disease.

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BRIEF HISTORY: SINCE 2002, PRESS RESTRICTIONS WERE GRADUALLY RELAXED AND PRIVATE MEDIA DIVERSIFIED. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE PRESS IS PROMOTED IN 2004.
SINCE THEN MORE THAN 30 AFGHANISTAN BASED TELEVISION CHANNELS BOTH TERRESTRIAL AND SATELLITE AND AROUND 100 RADIO FM STATIONS STARTED OPERATION IN THE COUNTRY.
FOREIGN RADIO STATIONS, SUCH AS VOICE OF AMERICA AND BBC WORLD SERVICE, ALSO BROADCAST INTO THE COUNTRY.