Defending Citizens from Bribery in Afghanistan

CLAO lawyer consults with client.

A small business owner felt cheated by the tax department after having to pay an unnecessary extra 5,000 Afghanis (Afs). He came across a poster for the new Citizens Legal Advocate Office (CLAO) in Kabul and decided to seek their free legal advice from a CLAO lawyer.

After hearing the small businessman’s story, the lawyer and taxpayer went to the tax office to confront the officer. The tax officer initially denied having asked for the additional 5,000 Afs. The lawyer then made it clear that the case would go to the Attorney General’s Office and courts, and the tax officer admitted his mistake. The bribe money was returned to the small business owner. The tax officer’s supervisor was notified, punished the guilty party, and promised to help curb corruption in their office.

Another citizen, an illiterate man, went into the Customs and Income Department to renew his driving permit for a pickup truck. They said that his documents marked his vehicle as a bus, and he would have to pay an extra 30,000 Afs to renew his license. The man tried a mediator with no luck in getting them to drop the added charges.

Then the illiterate man turned to the legal advocate office. The CLAO lawyer looked over his documents and found that the vehicle number was written intentionally erroneous. The lawyer accompanied the man to the government office to state his case, and the permit was issued without having to pay the additional fee.

These citizen legal advocate offices are supported by MSI’s USAID-funded Assistance to Afghanistan Anti-corruption Authority (4A) project. The CLAO lawyers offer free legal advice to defend citizens from corruption, protecting rights of all citizens and making government agencies more accountable and transparent.

The CLAO success story is also highlighted on the USAID/Afghanistan’s website. 

Since 1998, MSI has designed and established more than 25 similar legal offices in in Ukraine, Russia and Albania to provide proactive support for victims of corruption. The office’s successes have resulted in the restoration of citizen rights, financial restitution, administrative and procedural changes in the delivery of public services, and disciplinary measures and criminal charges brought against corrupt officials.

The CLAO lawyers have consultations on how to register their grievances with government agencies and provide representation in court. They also understand the frustrations and delays that often accompany bringing corruption cases to court. The lawyers are encouraged to deal with the problem through administrative resolution, an effective tactic to deal with bureaucratic corruption and abuse.

Read more about MSI’s experts presenting the citizen advocate offices model to State Department.

Read more about MSI’s anti-corruption work in Afghanistan.

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