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Kabul municipal services sub-par, survey finds

Kabul municipal services sub-par, survey finds

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Sep 26, 2017 - 08:38
KABUL (Pajhwok): Public satisfaction with the services of Kabul Municipality is fair in most of the municipality’s districts where public cooperation has somehow improved but generally, the level of satisfaction with municipality services is sub- par.

Experts list inadequate facilities, rapid replacement of mayors, which result in the introduction of new plans and strategies, and administrative corruption as the main reasons behind the imbalanced delivery of urban services. The Kabul Municipality, however, acknowledges some of these irregularities but at the same time confirms that a new strategy has been formulated to improve services and resolve the city’s problems.

Municipality services & public cooperation and satisfaction

Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) conducted a survey in 21 municipality districts of Kabul on 16 different governance indicators and services available in the various districts of the municipality. As many as 1,275 persons, seven percent of whom are women, were interviewed in the survey published in 2016.  

For each indicator, five options were assigned: “Very good, good, fair, bad, and very bad.” Each option was given a number to signify the level of citizen satisfaction -- 5 for very good, 4 for good, 3 for fair, 2 for bad, and 1 for very bad.

The survey results show that the only the two indicators: 1. Public cooperation with the municipality, and 2. Process of document verification and licencing in municipality, had public satisfaction levels of ‘nearly fair’. Public satisfaction levels were reported as “bad” for the rest of the indicators.

Specifically, the indicators solid waste management, transparency and accountability in tax collection, public participation in decision-making, reconstruction of roads, recreational parks and green areas, standardization of private construction, sanitation, canalization system, buildings and maintenance of infrastructure, effectiveness of the complaint addressing mechanism, access to public information, accountability to public, bus stops and car parking services were reported as “bad”, obtaining marks from 2.4 to 1.8.

Survey results also indicate that public cooperation with the municipality has been better than its satisfaction with urban services.

District 3 has the highest rate of public cooperation with the municipality in terms of environmental protection, while public satisfaction levels with municipality services was deemed to be fair.

Wahidullah, a resident of District 3, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the culture of keeping the city clean was growing with each passing day and that was the reason for growing public cooperation with the municipality.

“Municipality services are not bad in our area where most of the people throw solid wastes in the trash bins installed by the municipality. But heaps of garbage can be seen in some areas around trash bins. It shows the municipality does not properly administer these areas. Corruption may exist in the municipality like other institutions,” he said.

Nisar Ahamd Habibi Ghori, who worked in different section of the municipality for 14 years, recently resigned his job at the sanitation department. He acknowledged public cooperation in keeping the city clean had increased and the urban culture was rising.

Ghori, who resigned about a year and a half ago, said people’s role in keeping the city clean was important as the municipality with around 5,000 personnel could not manage a city of millions of people, with 70 percent unplanned areas.

He said the municipality had limited financial resources and machineries and could hardly deal with construction and maintenance of roads.

According to the Central Statistics Organization (CSO), around four million people are currently living in Kabul.

Abdul Jalil Sultani, public relations chief of the municipality, suggested previous mayors be held responsible for their poor performances. Currently, he said, insufficient budget, lack of required capacity and personnel -- in addition to corruption -- contributed to poor urban services. The municipality had thus fared poorly, he argued.

Abdullah Jan Habibzai was appointed as acting Kabul mayor in May 2016. Mohammad Aslam Akrami and Abdul Ahad Wahid were his predecessors.

Sultani said the indicator of public cooperation with the municipality secured higher marks in the survey because it existed at some levels. He lamented that on the national level Kabul was the only city where public cooperation with the municipality was dismally low.

"Enough public cooperation would enable the municipality to offer more effective services,” he added.

Low public satisfaction

The residents of District have the highest level of satisfaction with municipal services and public cooperation with the municipality is fair.

Mohammad Zahir, a resident of the district, said: “People in our neighbourhood put garbage in the trash bin. Municipality workers empty the bin on time, so garbage doesn't accumulate. The municipality has also paved most of streets in the area. Therefore, residents are satisfied."

However, residents of District 18 complain of the urban services and the level of satisfaction and cooperation is also low.

Alhaj Taimor Shah, an inhabitant of the Tarakhel village of Deh Sabz area of District 18, called the municipality’s services unbalanced.

He said: "There have been no services provided by the municipality in our village. Except for the main road, all other routes are not asphalted. We face many problems in managing solid waste. "There is no garbage bin in our village, and no area has been specified for dumping waste. People throw trash wherever they want; we are sick of the stink and flies rising from garbage,”

He added: “The municipal serves areas based on relations and references, particularly neighborhoods where senior government officials live. But the poor people have no one to refer to and no one from our area is in a high place."

 

Mohammad Hamayun Kazim, an environmental expert, believes balance was not maintained in delivery of urban services because the municipality focused more on areas where senior government officials lived. Also, the municipality pays no attention to unplanned areas of city.

“In Qala-i-Zaman Khan area in District 16 or other parts far from the city centre, fewer services are provided by the municipality, because people there don't have high government jobs.”

"On the other hand, in Wazir Akbar Khan in the 10th district, where ministers, rich and senior government officials live, only roads and building fronts are spruced up by the municipality,” he continued.

The survey shows municipal service delivery in Districts 16 and 10 are ‘nearly good’.

Kazim said lack of coordination among relevant organs (municipality, Ministry of Urban Development, Land Authority and other offices) had led to arbitrary acts in service delivery. Removal of mayors based on the choice of the sitting president has been another major problem during the past decade and a half.

Article 141 of the Constitution says: “To administer city affairs, municipalities shall be established. The mayor and members of municipal councils shall be elected through free, general, secret and direct elections. Matters related to municipalities shall be regulated by law”. But there have been no such elections yet.

But Nisar Ahmad Habibi, a former sanitation head at the municipality, was asked why more attention was given to areas where government authorities lived. He replied: “I cannot comment on the current situation; but during my tenure, government officials were not paid more heed..."

Apart from other factors -- lack of personnel, equipment, budget, unplanned areas and the frequent replacement of mayors -- population density is another reason that contributes to unbalanced and bad service delivery. “In some municipal districts, the size of population is also not kept in view and no plan exists for addressing these issues.”

Each mayor after being appointed prepares his own plan. As a result, time is wasted on devising plans by each new mayor. “It is a big mistake,” he observed.

Sultani emphasized former officials had to be held accountable for municipality’s past performances. “But, this year, the municipality has learnt -- after an assessment of last year’s performance -- that the services it provided last year were not balanced in some cases.”

Solution

For better service delivery, Nisar Ahmad Habibi proposed, the number of sanitation department personnel should be increased, resources of the municipality enhanced and the private sector given a role.

Mohammad Hamayon Kazim urged the municipality to develop a plan in consultation with experts to improve and balance its service delivery. “The plan should also ensure greater public participation in keeping the city clean,” he said.

 “There are global models guiding municipalities on how to include unplanned, irregular areas and illegally-constructed homes in a plan and how to provide better urban services in such localities. But the Kabul Municipality has not yet paid serious attention to such issues,” he said.

Abdul Jaleel Sultani said in compliance with a study it had conducted and also keeping in view previous initiatives, the municipality had drawn up a new plan that would go into effect next year and pay adequate heed to maintaining balance in service delivery.

“Improving service delivery in and development of unplanned areas, constituting 70 percent of the city, as well as giving a due share to the private sector in urban facilities were also part of the plan”, he explained.

Paucity of resources was a big issue, he said, adding the municipality planned to conduct public awareness programmes to facilitate greater public participation in delivery of urban services and set up people’s councils in different districts of the city.

Administrative corruption is another major problem in ensuring better and balanced urban services, according to him. As many as 180 staffers, including high-ranking officials, involved in such cases have been identified and referred to judicial organs in the past one and a half years.

He did not name officers but said they worked in the operation/logistics section of the municipality. Sultani stressed the need for continued fight against and eradication of corruption in the municipality.

 

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