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Afghanistan Tests Out New Civil-Service Hiring System

Whereas the well-connected, or those willing to pay bribes, often got the inside track to gaining employment in such positions, the emphasis now is to hire based on merit.
If you were appointed a district governor in Afghanistan, how would you tackle security challenges?

For that matter, how would you provide equal rights for women in a deeply conservative society? And how would you implement government policies in an area where there is not much trust or support for government?

Those are the types of questions currently being posed to hundreds of job candidates as Afghanistan tests out revamped hiring procedures for civil-service positions.

The effort is part of the country's larger effort to fight corruption, and is aimed at changing a firmly entrenched culture of favoritism when filling government positions ranging from lofty gubernatorial posts to more modest secretarial roles.

Whereas the well-connected, or those willing to pay bribes, often got the inside track to gaining employment in such positions, the emphasis now is to hire based on merit.

The organization tasked with overseeing the new procedures, Afghanistan's Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IACSC), says it has taken every precaution to ensure there will be no room for fraud.

Steps taken include an evaluation process under which tests are graded with the applicants' names kept anonymous to leave no room for favoritism.

The results are to be released within days, and applicants are given the right to appeal -- or even take legal action -- if they are dissatisfied with the testing and interview processes.

Finally, outside advisers culled from various government and private entities are brought in to monitor every stage -- from the short-listing of candidates, to the written tests, to personal interviews.

Removing Bias

Since the new system was launched last month, the IACSC says it has received nearly 2,000 applications from candidates looking to become deputy provincial governors, district governors, or administrative positions in various central or provincial departments.

In the case of the 11 deputy provincial governorships, and 100 district governorships advertized, the IACSC organized two separate tests to select the best candidates.

Azizullah Ariyafar, department head at the IACSC, says some 300 candidates -- shortlisted based on their educational background and job experience -- took part in each test.

"In written tests, candidates answered six questions relevant to the jobs they had applied for -- including on strategy and planning and other managerial issues," Ariyafar says. "The questions were prepared literally an hour before the tests began."

According to Ariyafar, job applicants' ethnic backgrounds and political affiliations played no role in the selection process.

For those who successfully pass the written tests, the next and final stage is a personal job interview. Successful applicants are to be hired immediately after the interview.

Kabir Ahmad Rahil traveled to Kabul from his village of Dawlatshahi in the northern Parwan Province in hopes of landing a job as a district governor.

Unemployed for the past three months, the 50-year-old father of eight says he first found out about the tests through advertisements broadcast on national television and radio for the past several months.

"God willing, I will successfully pass the test and get the job I applied for," Rahil says. "I am confident."

Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan's Zarif Nazar
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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    Zarif Nazar

    Zarif Nazar is a producer and correspondent for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.