Abdul Wahid Haidari and Jawad Temori
Ajmal Ahmadi has been working as acting governor of Afghanistan’s central bank for one year. 1TV found that the central bank, the most vital financial institution responsible for monitoring and ensuring financial stability of the country, apparently is in the midst of a turmoil and is witnessing illegal and corrupt activities.
It has been two years since the institution is lacking a governor and is run by a caretaker. Apparently, over the past one year, the acting governor’s wants and desires have guided the operations at the bank more than what law says.
The story began on 17 June two years ago when Khalil Sediq resigned as governor of the bank. According to the law, deputy Wahidullah Nawsher, became acting governor of the bank.
After one year, President Ghani appointed his adviser on banking and financial affairs as acting governor of the bank, a move that was against the tradition that was prevailing for years at the bank.
Prior to Mr. Ahmadi, former heads of the bank, namely Abdul Qadir Fitrat, Noorullah Delawari and Khalil Sediq started working in the post after getting parliamentary approvals. Ajmal Ahmadi, however, started working in the post before going to the parliament.
The new acting governor started with reshuffling and dismissing, a move that was hailed by Ahmadi’s supporters as reform, but was seen by his critics and dismissed employees as illegal, coercion and monopoly. Illegal dismissals and recruitment, forced resignations, illegal reshuffles, corruption, chaos in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, lack of access to information and threatening of employees by the presidency are among issues that have been observed over the past one year in the bank under Ahmadi.
Some dismissed employees of the bank said that the law of jungle is ruling at the bank. “Unfortunately, Ajmal Ahmadi has made the law of jungle ruling at the bank. He himself is the lion who can attack, eat and make others flee. There is nobody to tell him he is not a lion, but an individual who could not win vote of confidence and is the most untrusted person,” said Aimal Hashoor, a former official at chief of staff office of the bank.
“Ajmal Ahmadi is an administrative terrorist”
1TV found that during one year of the bank under Ahmadi, more than 40 experienced employees of the bank lost their jobs or they were dismissed under the so-called campaign of fight against corruption. Some of them had more than 10 years of work experience at the bank.
Mohammad Qasim Rahimi, a former second deputy of the bank, is one among those who were illegally dismissed. According to the law of the bank, deputies except the first deputy can been dismissed by the Supreme Council of the bank, but the council could dismiss the second deputy only under special circumstances.
According to the Paragraph 3 of Article 20 of the central bank’s law, a Deputy Governor other than the First Deputy Governor or Comptroller General of Da Afghanistan Bank shall be suspended or removed from office by the Supreme Council if he:
has been convicted of an offense to the punishment of which is imprisonment, unless such conviction was motivated by his religious or political views or activities; has been declared bankrupt or unable to pay his debts by a court decision; has been unable to perform the functions of his office because of an infirmity of body or mind that has lasted for more than six months; has engaged in significant violations of the law or in negligence from any duty imposed by the law, or has engaged in serious misconduct in the office.
According to the fourth paragraph of the Article, no such Deputy Governor or Comptroller General of Da Afghanistan Bank shall be suspended or removed from office on a ground other than those mentioned in paragraph 3 of this Article.
Apart from the second deputy governor, the Supreme Council of the bank chaired by Ajmal Ahmadi illegally dismissed three senior employees of the bank. Three other senior employees got the news of their dismissal via phone.
According to the Article 19 of the central bank law, dismissing or appointing employees is the sole authority of the Executive Board of Da Afghanistan Bank.
“I don’t understand what wrong I did. I have not committed a crime. What was my problem. Advancement of personal interests was prevailing at the bank and according to one of our colleagues, Ajmal Ahmadi is an administrative terrorist. Terrorism prevails even now,” said Jamal Nasir Raoufi, former general deputy of the bank for risks and law observation,
A former employee of the bank said on condition of anonymity that Ahmadi doesn’t trust anybody particularly former employees. “He is suspicious of them and hates them. He doesn’t like those who have worked together and have work experience.”
A large number of employees of the central bank were forced to resign during one year under Ahmadi. Wahidullah Nawsher, who worked as first deputy governor, is one among them.
Article 13 of the central bank law says: “The chair and deputy chairperson of Supreme Council may resign from office on giving not less than three months’ notice in writing to the President of Afghanistan, or such shorter period of time as the President may agree. Any other member of the Supreme Council may resign on giving not less than one month’s notice in writing to the President of Afghanistan, or such shorter period of time as the President may agree.”
According to the law, Wahidullah Nawsher could continue working as deputy governor for three more months at the bank.
However, contrary to the law, the bank’s guards on the instructions from the acting governor of the bank did not allow Nawsher to enter the bank one day after he offered his resignation. Such thing had never happened at the bank, according to the bank’s former officials. “A deputy governor being denied entry to the bank had never happened in the past,” said Hashoor.
In addition to the first deputy governor, several other senior employees of the central bank also resigned during Ahmadi. According to the dismissed employees, if Ahmadi doesn’t like one, he does things which will force the employee to resign. According to the former procurement head of central bank, Abdul Rahman Behroz, the acting governor of the bank ordered the general head of supervision of non-banking institutions to prepare and submit a 150-page procedure within two hours. “The official could not do the assignment and was forced to resign,” Behroz said.
More than 40 employees of the central bank lost their jobs at the bank in one year of Ahmadi heading the bank.
All these dismissals and forced resignations happened at a time when legitimacy of the acting governor’s working was in question. According to the Article 64 of the Constitution, the governor-general of the bank should secure parliamentary approval. However, on 2 December, 2020, Ahmadi secured 72 confidence votes, 74 no-confidence votes, 77 invalid votes and 19 blank votes and failed to get parliamentary approval.
Two punishments for no guilt
Apart from dismissals and forced resignations, there have also been lots of cases of illegal reshuffling at the bank. Under Ahmadi, some of the employees of the bank were shifted to positions which do not meet educational or work experience requirements. Some other employees of the bank were shifted to positions of lower grades, against the laws.
According to the Article 21 of civil servants regulation, government employees can be shifted from one position to another only in case of specialization and seeking skills to improve performance at the institution as well as requests by two employees for changing positions of same duties and their departments’ approval.
According to the Article 23 of the law, employees cannot be reshuffled before the annual assessment of their performance. Moreover, they should have skills required by the post they are shifted to.
Apart from the legal provisions, the presidency had also ordered the central bank to recruit considering educational fields, also posts of those employees who do not meet educational requirements of the posts should be announced as vacancies.
Moreover, according to the labour law and civil servants law, government employees can be demoted only after undergoing warning or salary cut stages. However, during Ahmadi, such laws were violated and the presidential decree was also ignored. Although officials at the central bank call dismissals and reshuffles part of reform process, however, investigation shows that some of the replacements do not have banking experience or their experience level is lower than those who preceded them.
Some of the former employees of the central bank said that Ahmadi issued many warnings to employees outside his circle. They said that Ahmadi issued even 80 warnings in one day. Former deputy head of procurement of the bank, Abdul Rahman Behroz, said that Ahmadi would shift anyone who he had problem with to a position where his works would not be effective.
Some of the employees of the bank who were recommended for educational scholarships also said that they were dismissed by the acting governor of the bank due to their absence from job. Abdul Amin Rasikh and Zamir Safai are among the employees who were recommended for India’s ICCR scholarships. They said that Ahmadi asked them not to use the scholarships even after they completed the administrative procedures. The employees said that they were dismissed by the acting governor of the bank while they were studying in India.
Central bank posts auctioned
Based on the information obtained by 1TV, around 130 new employees were recruited at the bank under Ahmadi and the process is facing lots of questions. Their appointment orders obtained by 1TV have some interesting points. There has been no educational background, work experience, lengthy recruitment process and approval of executive board.
The posts were not advertised to the public and the appointments were made following the applicants’ requests and the acting governor’s order, which clearly violates the bank’s recruitment rules.
For instance, in an appointment order, it has been written that Yar Mohammad Rustam who introduces himself as a Bachelor’s degree holder, is seeking to work in central bank, therefore, HR should process the request. The same person, then, was appointed as general head of financial system consolidation projects at Grade 13, with an order by Ahmad and without undergoing recruitment procedures required by law.
In another appointment order, it has been written that Momin Wakili who introduces himself to be a Master’s degree holder in Business Administration and International Trade and having seven years of work experience, has requested employment in the central bank. He was, then, appointed in Grade 11 at the bank.
These are only a few examples. 1TV has obtained more than 50 letters of such appointments. In the orders, Ahmadi has instructed HR department to proceed based on the rules.
The HR, then, proposed their appointment to the leadership of central bank and the acting governor ordered that they should be appointed to avoid interruption in activities.
In the process, there is no such thing as job analysis, Supreme Council approval, announcement of vacancies, preparing preliminary list of eligible candidates, conducting written tests, approval of assessment committee, interview or approval of executive board.
These have been prescribed by the central bank’s law, and recruitment for 1-13 Grade posts comes under the authorities of executive board, and recruitment for 6 and higher Grades requires approval of majority of members of executive board.
Grading system at the central bank is unlike that of civil service system. In the civil service system, Grade 1 is the highest level grade and Grade 8 is the lowest, but in the central bank, Grade 13 is the highest level grade and Grade 1 is the lowest.
Among the appointed are two brothers who have secured key posts, namely Mohammad Yasin Wakili, son of Mohammad Ihsan, head of procurement, as well as Mohammad Momin Wakili, son of Mohammad Ihsan, who has been appointed as executive assistant of Ahmadi.
Likewise, Mohammad Isa Mayar, son of Mohammadullah, and Noorullah Mayar, son of Mohammadullah, have been appointed as head of zonal coordination and deputy of banking operations each respectively.
It is not clear what kind of relationship these brothers maintain with Ahmadi and his team, but sources told 1TV that Ahmadi appointed his teammates and friends in the central bank.
Former deputy head of operations of the central bank, Shafiqullah Shafaq, said that Ahmadi recruited his teammates and friends who had no experience of working at the bank and they were not even familiar with the bank’s terminology.
Shafaq said that the bank was placed on a bad and bleak path with the removal of experienced people.
The appointment letters show that most of the recruitments happened between August and November last year, at a time when there were no vacancies announced and Ajmal Ahmadi was the acting governor and would go to parliament for approval.
Many consider such appointments as part of the acting governor’s efforts to pay political bribe to MPs to get their vote of confidence.
“Majority of them (recruits), I could say even 99 percent of them have been appointed as part of dealing with MPs before Ahmadi went to parliament for their votes,” said Jamal Nasir Raoufi, former general deputy of the bank for risks and law observation.
Among those recruited are also those who have worked with Ahmadi in the presidential palace and the ministry of industry and commerce. 1TV sources call them as special and trusted circle of Ahmadi.
“Ajmal Ahmadi has taken the team he had in commerce ministry to the central bank. This comes as the commerce ministry is a separate institution and has its own policies and procedures and is completely different from the central bank,” said Abdul Raouf Inami, member of parliamentary commission on budget and banking.
Apart from ignoring the recruitment procedures, some have been recruited by the bank in the absence of any vacancies, and posts were created for them after their joining.
For instance, general headship of zonal coordination was created for Mohammad Isa Mayar and general headship of banks clearance was created for Zabih Akbari. This comes as former executive board of the bank had removed the post of head of zonal cooperation because its duties could be performed by the head of banking operations.
According to the paragraph 12 of Article 9 of the central bank law, making decisions over the central bank’s structure falls under the authorities of its Supreme Council. But the appointment letters and creation of posts do not carry Supreme Council’s approval.
Threatening with referral to presidency
Ajmal Ahmadi’s attitude toward his subordinates is another issue which the bank’s employees complain about. Some said that Ahmadi threatened more by referring to the presidency so that they are forced to leave the bank and people of his choice are appointed.
“Ajmal Ahmadi threatens that the president stands at the back of him. He even says that when he dismisses us, we cannot get another job in the government or any other institution,” said Raoufi.
Experts have compared Ahmadi’s behaviour to that of a monarch. “The central bank is becoming almost a monarchy institution which is administered from the top and no one gets to know what happens there,” said Tariq Farhadi, a former presidential economic adviser.
Illegal allocation of benefits
Documents obtained by 1TV show that Ahmadi has illegally approved benefits for some of the employees of the bank. He has approved 451,000 afghanis for his chief of staff Yar Mohammad Rustam and 522,000 for his adviser Shabnam Amini, against the budget rules of the bank.
Meanwhile, it has been one year since the central bank is lacking an executive board, which is crucial for the functioning of the bank. During the period, the bank’s revenue declined from 29 billion afghanis to 900 million afghanis. Although the central bank cites coronavirus pandemic as the reason behind the reduction, but it is not the sole cause. MPs said that the bank has not been able to convince them in this regard.
Is Afghanistan on the brink of being included in the Grey List?
A secret letter from EU obtained by 1TV expresses concern about money laundering in Afghanistan and has said that as compared to the high threat of money laundering in the country, only a few cases have been prosecuted.
The letter says that the law of anti-terrorist financing is not implemented properly and it remains a major challenge.
EU Commission identified the problems in the financial system of the country and asked the central bank to improve the situation. However, the bank’s acting governor illegally dismissed head of financial intelligence, Salim Salah, and moved his deputies Sulaiman Didar and Abdullah Qayoumi out of the office. Experts said that such a move could create a major risk for the financial system of the country, investors and monetary relations.
If the situation remains the same, Afghanistan will likely be placed in the Grey list of international financial institutions. According to the financial and banking experts, Afghanistan’s inclusion in the Grey list could create lots of challenges for the country.
“Inclusion of Afghanistan in the Grey list would weaken the private sector and financial institutions,” said Siyar Qureshi, former head of Afghan Bankers’ Union.
He said that no small, medium or large foreign firms would invest in Afghanistan and monetary relations with other countries would face problems if Afghanistan is included in the Grey list.
Politicization of financial heart of the country
Apart from being the acting governor of the central bank, Ahmadi holds also other government posts which have no relation with the central bank. This could be an example of politicization of the central bank.
Presidential advisory on financial and banking affairs, involvement in TAPI project, headship of Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan working group on economic cooperation and advancing air corridor program of Afghanistan are some of the cases of Ahmadi’s involvement outside the central bank.
This comes as according to the Article 25 of the central bank law, the governor, deputies and comptroller general of the bank should use all their professional capabilities in serving the central bank and they cannot accept any other post outside the bank except that they represent the bank.
Violation of Access to Information Law
Access to information is another issue that was restricted after Ahmadi took over.
According to a letter from the Access to Information Commission obtained by 1TV, requests for information from various institutions have been left without any response. Officials of the commission said that the bank has stopped cooperating in getting access to information.
“The central bank has not had a good history in regards to access to information. Still there was better cooperation in the past. Such cooperation declined with the passage of time and at times the cooperation even stopped,” said Ainuddin Bahaduri, head of Access to Information Commission.
Meanwhile, the bank’s restriction of access to information is also a reason why Yama Siawash’s family do not get to know who killed their loved one with the magnetic bomb attack.
Central bank’s response
Acting Governor of the central bank, Ajmal Ahmadi, refused to talk to 1TV, but the office of spokesperson of the bank said that there was no violation of rules, laws and regulations at the bank under Ahmadi.
Officials at the central bank said that the dismissed people were involved in various cases of corruption and there were reliable documents in this regard. The central bank, however, did not make available these documents with 1TV.
In a letter, the central bank has mentioned six cases of corruption including demanding 3.5 million afghanis, illegal repayment, serious violation of procurement orders, blocking audit reports, faking Supreme Council’s decisions and putting pressure on members of the Supreme Council. According to the letter, the dismissed people were involved in these cases. The bank said that it referred the cases to the Attorney General’s Office.
1TV asked AGO about the progress of the cases. The office did not make any comment on the cases mentioned by the central bank, but it mentioned five other cases which were different from them.
AGO said that it was investigating the five cases at the central bank.
Officials at the central bank also rejected illegal recruitments and reshuffling.
It is not that Ajmal Ahmadi has created controversy only in the central bank. He joined President Ashraf Ghani’s team in 2016 as a presidential adviser on economic, financial and banking affairs. While serving in the post, he also had an advising contract with the finance ministry with a salary of 500 dollars per day.
After three years of advisory, Ahmadi was appointed as acting minister of commerce and industry in 2018. There too, he was reported to have made illegal appointments.
With the chaos prevailing at the central bank, the government approved printing 100 billion banknotes. It is not clear if the banknotes will carry Ahmadi’s signature.
Moreover, the parliamentary commission on financial, budget and banking affairs declared Ahmadi’s signature invalid and said that his working as head of the bank was a serious threat to the public wealth. Money Dealers’ Union in a letter called Ahmadi’s signature invalid and accused him of supporting a special circle and of dividing.
With this obstructionism, corruption and lack of proper management at the central bank as the treasury of the Afghan people, it is not clear what will happen to the financial system of the country at a time when foreign aid is declining.
Bashir Ahmad Shirzad contributed to this report.