| KABUL, July 24
KABUL, July 24 Afghanistan has asked major
Western backers and diplomats to furnish a list of contractors
they use with close ties to top Afghan officials as part of
efforts to crack down on rampant corruption worrying
Graft remains one of the biggest headaches for President
Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan's international backers, who
demanded at a conference in Tokyo this month that the government
combat graft as the price of future aid worth $16 billion.
Karzai in turn has accused the international community of
helping to fuel corruption and has asked foreign donors to stop
awarding massive reconstruction projects to contractors linked
to senior officials in his government.
"As part of fighting corruption outside the government, we
have asked the United States and UK embassies, and NATO
authorities, to give us a list of names of major contractors
related to senior officials," a senior government official told
Reuters on Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
"We have made plans to fight corruption at all levels,
within and outside the government."
Afghanistan is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries
by the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency
Much of the money has been siphoned from billions of dollars
worth of aid and reconstruction projects, some awarded to
contractors with ties to Karzai's extended family, damaging the
president's own popularity.
"The contractors often misuse the names of senior officials
and use that influence to win tens of millions of dollars they
earn from the projects," the official said.
Karzai called last month, just ahead of the major donors'
meeting in Tokyo, for parliament to do more to tackle graft and
said "corruption has reached its peak in Afghanistan".
While the call fell short of Western hopes for tough action
and prosecutions, his remarks were seen as one of the strongest
commitments to fight graft since U.S.-led Afghan forces toppled
the Taliban government in late 2001.
Karzai promised he would bring administrative reforms from
top to bottom in his government, a vow which was welcomed by the
Karzai's chief spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the decree on
administrative reforms would be signed by Karzai "very soon" but
rejected reports that some Cabinet ministers and provincial
governors under a graft cloud would soon be sacked.
"Each ministry and government administration will be given a
timeframe to introduce reforms, better governance, and most
importantly tackle graft," Faizi told Reuters.
Highlighting the worries among Karzai's backers, Britain's
aid watchdog this year called on the government in London to
tighten its oversight of aid to Afghanistan.
Karzai's government has yet to prosecute a single
high-level corruption case.
(Editing by Rob Taylor and Nick Macfie)