The lower house of the Afghan Parliament – the Wolesi Jirga – has a long-standing and unflattering reputation for corruption, which ranges from members of parliament receiving bribes for votes of confidence to arranging lucrative contracts. The latest allegation, however, was the first time that an MP had accused a fellow MP of corruption. This eventually led to an investigation by a parliamentary fact-finding commission and a referral of the case to the Attorney General, but only after most MPs had tried to give the accused immunity from prosecution. AAN’s Jelena Bjelica and Rohullah Sorush (with input by Thomas Ruttig) present a timeline of developments and examine the details of this case and its significance for Afghanistan’s parliament.For the first time, an MP has accused a fellow MP of corruption. The case eventually went to the Attorney General, but only after the vast majority of other MPs voted to give the accused immunity from prosecution. Photo: Pajhwok archive photo.
Since 2005, when it was elected for the first time after a 36-year break, (1) the Wolesi Jirga has seen only one rotation of MPs, in 2010. The third post-Taleban parliamentary election should have been held in 2015 according to Afghan law, but it has been postponed several times since then (see AAN’s analyses on the delays here and on the legality of the extended mandate of MPs here). It is against this backdrop that some MPs, who have been sharing benches with each other for almost seven and a half years now, decided to expose corruption within their own ranks. While their ulterior motives remain unclear, this exposure may have to do with their positioning for the new parliamentary elections scheduled for 2018. In this context, they may want to ride on the wave of ongoing anti-corruption efforts driven by President Ashraf Ghani.
An MP goes public
On 22 July 2017, Homayun Homayun, an MP from Khost province and deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, for the first time named a name – although not of an MP. At a press conference held in the parliament building, he publicly accused the head of the house’s Secretariat (dar ul-ensha), Khudai Nazar Nasrat, of corruption and making illegal appointments (see an Afghan media report here). (The Secretariat consists of support staff who are in charge of all the administrative, financial, logistical and security affairs of the Wolesi Jirga.) (2) Homayun alleged that around 350 to 400 staff had illegally been employed under Nasrat’s watch and that money for contracts had been embezzled. (3) Homayun’s accusations also appeared to be directed at Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the Wolesi Jirga’s speaker, as Nasrat had risen to top positions in the Secretariat following Ibrahimi’s election to his own post in February 2011. (4) Homayun also explicitly said at the press conference that “the administrative board of the house may also be involved in some corruption cases.” (Homayun, as the first deputy speaker, is one of five MPs who serve as the Wolesi Jirga’s Administrative board; see also footnote 2.)
Before going public, Homayun had requested in writing that the Attorney General investigate these allegations. This official letter, dated 14 July 2017 and numbered 137/125 (as detailed by an Afghan online media source, Khabarnama, owned by the brother of another MP, in Dari here), described cases of Nasrat’s misuse, such as recruitment of more than 300 temporary staff, most of whom, according to Homayun, never existed. (The Secretariat can hire its own staff and MPs do not have a say in who is employed.) Homayun also accused Nasrat of extortion, non-transparent contracts, illegal payments and excessive expenses for MPs’ trips to foreign countries. According to the undated report Homayun presented to the Wolesi Jirga in late September, the documents had also been sent to the president via the Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs. In early September, Homayun told Khabarnama that “the prosecutor’s office has not yet responded to the request.”
According to Homayun’s report, his initial information apparently originated from fellow southeastern MP Abdul Qader Zazai Watandost, the Wolesi Jirga’s secretary. (Both Zazai and Homayun were elected to the administrative board of the Wolesi Jirga in March 2017, in contrast to speaker Ibrahimi who has been on the board since 2011.) When Zazai tried to probe Nasrat about the documents, Nasrat refused, claiming he reports only to the speaker. Homayun assigned Zazai to assess all documents in the Secretariat (decision number 77/79, dated 10 June 2017; see also this Pajhwok report in Dari), but he was blocked by Nasrat. Zazai also said, according to Homayun’s report, that the speaker of the house had called him to his office and told him to back off. Some days later, according to the same report, in a meeting of the Wolesi Jirga’s Administrative Board, Ibrahimi had allegedly requested that Homayun not disclose the documents so that the parliament’s dignity be preserved; at the same time, he assured him of his support if “there is more corruption in the Secretariat of the Lower House.”
While Homayun surely has his own motives for exposing corruption at the core of the institutions that are designed to facilitate parliament’s work (more on this below), the counter-offensive followed shortly afterwards. Only a few days later, on 25 July 2017, speaker Ibrahimi sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), which AAN has been shown, stating that Homayun’s allegations were not credible and did not need to be investigated. Nasrat had, in fact, previously alleged that there had been personal goals behind Homayun’s accusations, namely that Homayun had pushed him to fire the Secretariat’s financial director in order to take control of some contracts himself, namely over stationery (5) and over the house’s own media channel through an outlet that belonged to him. Nasrat had reportedly even warned Homayun against making the issue public.
The lower house’s speaker comes under fire
Two months later, the Wolesi Jirga speaker came directly under fire. On 22 September 2017, Tolo TV showed documents (without giving a source for them) that implied that not only Nasrat, but Ibrahimi was involved in embezzlement. The media report claimed that 50 million Afghanis (approximately 725,000 USD) had been taken from the Wolesi Jirga’s budget to pay the rent for the speaker’s house, guest house and office in the last five years. In his report, Homayun even claimed the houses that were said to be in Kart-e Parwan did not exist, even though a monthly rent of 765,000 Afghanis (11,000 USD) had been paid out of the Wolesi Jirga budget over the past five years and that bills for repair works had also been taken out of the same budget.
Ibrahimi and Nasrat later rejected these allegations in parliament. Ibrahimi claimed that the speakers of both houses, as well as the Attorney General and the Chief Justice were entitled to have houses rented by the government. Nasrat, who was also given the floor, said that the Secretariat released the payments for the speaker’s rented house in accordance with the law under Code 91 of government policy. As it later turned out, neither side was fully correct.
Why did Homayun expose corruption?
Homayun’s motives for exposing corruption in the Wolesi Jirga remain the key to understanding this affair. According to two MPs who spoke to AAN on condition of anonymity, his relationship with President Ghani is crucial to this equation. (AAN tried several times to arrange a meeting with Homayun, but he was either travelling or said he was too busy to meet.)
Homayun was born in 1974 and finished school in the Soviet Union (his father was Kabul police chief during Nur Muhammad Taraki’s Moscow-backed government in 1978/79). Some MPs refer to him as “Homayun Khalqi Homayun,” Khalq being the name of the wing of the the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) which ruled Afghanistan from 1978 to 1979. Homayun, the son, is not known as a member of any of the current PDPA successor parties, or even as sharing their political outlook. He runs a construction business, a profession favoured by many MPs whose position gives them access to lucrative contracts via political connections. (This field, however, was put under tighter control when President Ghani established the National Procurement Authority which is directly under his own office.) Homayun became the chair of the Wolesi Jirga’s Defense and Territorial Affairs Commission in 2012 (see here).
Sources from southeastern Afghanistan told AAN that before the 2014 election, Homayun was not a widely known figure in his home province. In its run-up, he had hired some vehicles and a group of armed people, helping to project himself as well-connected and influential. That made him stand out in a region that is still not used to such behaviour and helped him to get enlisted into Ghani’s presidential campaign, which mobilised heavily in the southeast (AAN analysis here). In parliament, he leads the Afghanistan-e Azad (Free Afghanistan) parliamentary group, established in December 2015 (6).
One of the MPs, who spoke to AAN anonymously about the affair said that problems have since emerged between Homayun and the president:
The problem between President Ghani and Homayun Homayun started after Ghani took power. Homayun says he voted for President Ghani and helped him a lot to get into power [meaning gathering votes for him]. Homayun’s expectations from the president were very high. He wanted to get money from the president and [believed that] ministers should be hired according to his recommendations, but President Ghani will not do that.
Homayun’s fellow countryman from Khost, Latif Rohani, who is a member of the High Peace Council (and also son of Mawlawi Pir Mohammad Rohani, a Taleban-era chancellor of Kabul University who left the movement after 2001), said that Homayun’s problems with the president had arisen over an expected payback for his election support: “Homayun says the president does not pay attention to Khost development, and that he has not accepted his suggestions on this.” Homayun appears to have miscalculated that the Karzai-era patronage system – which awarded support in elections with positions, influence or contracts – would continue unabatedly under the new president.
Humayun seemed to be still enjoying the president camp’s support when he sucessfully ran for the post of the Wolesi Jirga’s deputy speaker in March 2017. However, in July 2017, he switched political sides and started openly supporting the anti-Ghani ‘Ankara coalition’, saying that its emergence was “testimony to President Ashraf Ghani’s poor leadership skills,” given that the coalition’s leaders were “serving government officials.” (For background on the Ankara Coalition, or as it is officially named, the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, see AAN analysis here). Homayun reportedly joined the coalition at a meeting held in Istanbul in late October 2017 and, with a number of other opposition MPs, most recently attended another meeting by the group held on 2 December 2017 in Kandahar (see also AAN analysis here). According to Rohani, Homayun is trying to mobilise other influential people from the southeast to joining the Ankara Coalition, but “he has not been very succesful so far.”
Enter the fact-finding commission
After Tolo TV published new, leaked allegations on 22 September 2017, the issue of corruption began dominating the ‘open discussion’ part of parliamentary sessions. First, on 23 September, a number of MPs raised the Tolo leak in the Wolesi Jirga plenary and requested a referral of the case to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation, as it “could negatively impact on the credibility and integrity of the House.” Concluding this discussion, Homayun, who in his position as first deputy speaker of the house had chaired the session, supported this motion. While doing so, the public broadcast of this session by the Wolesi Jirga’s own TV channel was suddenly discontinued. (7)
Two days later, on 25 September, Homayun again chaired a session (although there was no quorum) and, in his concluding remarks, informed MPs that a commission would be assigned to investigate the possible involvement of the Wolesi Jirga’s speaker and the head of the Secretariat in corruption. There was no follow-up, though, and in the next session, on 30 September, Homayun accused Ibrahimi of non-cooperation. Then, finally, the House established a five-member investigatory commission. (8)
On 2 October 2017, Ibrahimi changed his story and openly and publicly confirmed that corruption did exist in the Wolesi Jirga. However, he still he did not appear too keen on having an investigation. The to-and-fro between him and Homayun continued for another month while a division in the house between different blocks of MPs also became more apparent.
Already in the session on 27 September, Uruzgan MP Obaidullah Barakzai had blamed Homayun for misusing his position to attack the Wolesi Jirga speaker for his own political purposes, without going into detail. Another MP, representative for Kabul Ramazan Bashardost who is known for his strong anti-corruption stance was stopped by MP Zazai Watandost, member of the parliament’s administrative board, when he wanted to raise the issue of corruption (see media report here). Zazai, who had initially exposed corruption in the Secretariat to Homayun, now argued that discussing this issue further “was not beneficial for the country.”
On 9 October, Homayun lashed out at Ibrahimi in the plenary, accusing him of interfering in the investigation “against the decision of the House” and misusing his authority by adding a commissioner and assigning Zazai, the secretary of the Administrative Board, as chair. Ibrahimi replied that he had done so with the consensus of the Administrative Board. The fact that Homayun who is on the Administrative Board, questioned attempted changes to the fact-finding commission, indicates that Ibrahimi might have tried to overrule or circumvent him.
A week later, on 16 October 2017, some MPs were critical that the investigation had still not begun. Most MPs were by then of the view that the speaker’s assigning of an additional commissioner was against the decision of the house. In other words, they backed Homayun’s position. Other MPs told the speaker and his first deputy not to make it a personal issue and act in accordance with the law and the Wolesi Jirga’s internal procedures. They urged them to expedite the investigation so that the commission could report back to the house. The house, though, remained divided on how many commissioners there should be, and it was finally decided to put this to another vote in the plenary. However, there was no quorum on the day and no vote took place. For various, unfolding reasons, no vote was ever taken on this. (For more on the perennial failure of MPs to turn up to work and form quorums, see AAN analysis here).
Homayun and his supporters, at this point, lost patience with the endless procrastination and decided to take action, but by illegal means – and this was captured on a video obtained and also released by Tolo. The footage shows Homayun and MP Lalai Hamidzai, from Kandahar, entering the Wolesi Jirga TV’s archives on 17 October 2017 and copying some material (it is not clear with what aim). The footage also shows Hamidzai paying two men – believed to be archive employees – to let them in. Homayun eventually confirmed that they entered the archives, though he denied that they forced their way in or that they paid bribes to archives employees.
The culmination to all the drama came in the session on 25 October. When Paktia MP Gul Padshah Majidi brought up Homayun and Hamidzai’s forceful entering of the Wolesi Jirga TV’s archives, the situation escalated into a shower of verbal abuse and attempted assault by Uruzgan MP Obaidullah Barakzai on Homayun. The speaker had no choice but to adjourn the session.
The commission’s findings …
On 5 November 2017, the commission presented its findings and recommendations to the Wolesi Jirga. The MPs decided not to make the findings public and commission chair Erfanullah Erfan justified this with the need “to protect the dignity of the parliament.” By contrast, they agreed to publish the commission’s recommendations. However, the full report including the findings was leaked to Khabarnama.
The main findings in Ibrahimi’s case, according to the leaked document, proved that three of Homayun’s allegations were incorrect. The contract for the houses had been appoved by the President Ghani, although according to the principles of the internal duties of the Wolesi Jirga, the head of the parliament is not entitled to a rental subsidy from the budget of the parliament. The commission further found that the houses exist, but did not match their descriptions in the contract. It also found that the amount paid for repairs had been deducted from the rent – as was proper. The only allegation in Ibrahimi’s case that proved to be true, was that he unlawfully spent 5.4 million Afghanis (around 78,000 USD) from the Wolesi Jirga’s budget to purchase some carpets, furniture, electrical appliances, security devices and home appliances for his houses.
The commission thus recommended that the speaker reimburse only the money he unlawfully spent on furnishing his house and guesthouse, and Ibrahimi was ordered to pay back 5.4 million Afghanis. (Ibrahimi eventually agreed to pay back the requested amount.)
The commission also recommended that Nasrat be suspended from his position as head of the Secretariat and his case be handed over to the Attorney General for an investigation into illegal appointments of staff and corruption in procuring goods and services.
Kabul MP Hafiz Mansur, one of the commissioners, later leaked some details to the Kabul daily, Etilaat Roz:
We went to check the purchased items, the invoices and the prices. We found some invoices were fake and some were real. Some prices mentioned in the invoices differed from the prices in the bazaar. We said what needed to be said. We decided to send the investigation and our report to the AGO [Attorney General’s Office]. But I can only say that there were 14 cases that involved the Speaker of the House, the head of Secretariat of the House, the head of the Wolesi Jirga TV and also Mr Homayun Homayun.
Homayun was suspended for ten days from the Wolesi Jirga and Lalai Hamidzai for 15 days for illegally entering the Wolesi Jirga TV’s archives, while Uruzgan MP Obaidullah Barakzai was suspended for ten days for his attampted assault on the first deputy speaker. Furthermore, the acting director of Wolesi Jirga television was suspended. The fact-finding commission also recommended that she be referred to the Attorney General’s Office for interrupting the broadcast during the plenary session, but that did not happen because the Attorney General does not deal with such cases.
… and the subsequent vote which was then overruled
The whole affair had almost blown over when, on 11 November 2017, based on the petition of 70 MPs, the speaker put to a vote a motion requesting that Nasrat’s corruption case not be referred to the Attorney General’s Office for further investigation. Despite opposition to holding the vote at all, 117 of the 119 MPs present (a quorum) voted in favour of the speaker’s proposal not to refer Nasrat to the Attorney General.
This decision resulted in Erfanullah Erfan, the head of the fact-finding commission, and another MP, Muhammad Abdu from Balkh, walking out of the session because, as Tolo reported, they thought that the vote was against the law. Two days later, on 13 November, the heads of the 15 standing parliamentary commissions (see AAN analysis here) overruled the vote and decided to refer Nasrat’s case to the Attorney General.
Some reactions and the legal follow-up
The MPs’ vote to give Nasrat immunity and not send his case to the Attorney General for criminal investigation despite the recommendation of the parliament’s own fact-finding commission, provoked strong reactions from some MPs, analysts and the wider public. MP Mansur told Etilaat Roz: “Only a prosecutor and a judge can ask the parliament to remove the immunity of an MP under investigation. Then the parliament puts the issue to a vote. If the majority vote yes, the MP’s immunity will be removed and the prosecutor will have the right to investigate him/her.” Senator Zalmai Zabuli said on TV that “MPs have judged and voted on themselves, while this should have been handed over to the judicial authorities… Above all, the speaker of the parliament should be removed from his position.” Asef Ashna, a political analyst, also criticised the parliamentary vote calling for Nasrat not to be referred to the Attorney General in a programme aired on Arzo TV:
Now why is he pardoned? I expect Mr Farid Hamidy, the Attorney General, not to keep silent in such occasions, and to apply the law and restore justice.
The Attorney General finally started assessing the documents containing evidence against Nasrat in late November, Tolo reported.
Still there: the elephant in the room
Corruption in the Wolesi Jirga has been a huge problem, but rarely publically acknowledged. Reports about this have been rare – cases against MPs are tricky to prove – but those that have been published have been convincing (read various media reports here, here and here). In 2010, AAN reported how an MP described, without naming names, an attempt to bribe her and quoted other MPs, speaking off the record, who “estimated that sums of up to one and a half million dollars were paid out by some candidate ministers” before a vote of confidence (read here). (9)
The two MPs who spoke to AAN confirmed that this has not changed and that corruption in the Wolesi Jirga is still common. They maintain that MPs are still often paid by minister candidates, in some cases even by the government, to give them a vote of confidence. They estimated that only 12 to 15 per cent of the MPs are “clean” – a figure that may or may not be accurate. MPs often adjust their statements to their temporary needs, in this case to a time when it is official government policy to fight corruption and may also engage in mud-slinging against others to distract from their own corrupt practices. Even so, unless MPs are trying to protect their own backs, it is difficult to explain why (as reported above), almost all of MPs present (117 of 119) would vote to exempt the head of the Secretariat from being investigated for corruption.
Nevertheless, Homayun’s was the first case that MPs exposed the corruption of one of their fellow parliamentarians and in the Secretariat, a body which is central to the parliament’s functioning. Homayun might have been driven by his disappointment regarding the president not rewarding him for his support in the 2014 election (a complaint shared by many others) and he might have been wrong on a number of his accusations. However, the investigation he triggered, the documents that came to light as a result, as well as the fact-finding commission’s report, the final verdict of the chairs of the Wolesi Jirga standing commissions and, last but not least, the fact that speaker Ibrahimi agreed to pay back the money he had illegally spent from the budget (Tolo reported on 30 December 2017 that he still has not re-payed the amount) all indicate that there were at least grave irregularities in the dealings of the Wolesi Jirga Secretariat and that these involved the speaker.
At the same time, the way the MPs dealt with Homayun’s accusations reflected the grave shortcomings of the parliament, whose re-election h is long overdue. It highlighted again that the parliament continues to struggle with a lack of attendance, sufficient understanding (or conscious bending) of its rules and procedures (see Homayun’s first attempt to estabish a fact-finding commission despite the lack of a quorum) and, most dangerously a lack of internal oversight. Past and present accusations that a majority of MPs may be corrupt, either actively or passively, also stand in the way of genuine investigations. Many MPs will just fear that they might become the next target.
One thing is for sure: the almost three-year extension of the Wolesi Jirga’s mandate due to the elections being long overdue (see these AAN analyses on elections here and here) is neither helping Afghanistan’s parliamentary democracy nor the government’s anti-corruption efforts. After the next election would be high time to straighten parliament’s internal procedures, increase transparency and strengthen internal and external oversight of the Secretariat. Unfortunately, it is not easy as things stand to see Afghanistan getting a new parliament that will be any better at policing itself than the current one.
Edited by Thomas Ruttig and Kate Clark
(1) The last Afghan parliamentary election deserving of the name took place in 1969, when the country was still ruled by the monarchy. The next one, which should have happened in 1973, was prevented by that year’s coup d’état led by Sardar Muhammad Daud (in power 1973-78). There was another Wolesi Jirga election in 1988 under President Najibullah, but seats were allocated in advance and there was almost no turnout, not even in Kabul.
(2) Apart from the Secretariat (dar ul-ensha) and in accordance with article 87 of the Constitution, the Wolesi Jirga has an Administrative Board (hayat-e edari). This is sometimes also (but wrongly) called the secretariat, as – apart from the speaker and the first and second deputy speakers, it also includes the positions of a secretary and a deputy secretary of the board. The Board is elected annually from among the MPs and is in charge of chairing the plenary sessions and those of the chairs of the house’s permanent commissions (who are responsible for deciding the agenda of the individual Wolesi Jirga sessions). It further manages the Wolesi Jirga’s external relations. In the Afghan bureaucratic hierarchy, the Secretariat (dar ul-ensha) is called a general secretariat, giving its head the rank of a general secretary.
See also AAN’s guide to the Afghan parliament, here.
(3) The Wolesi Jirga’s operational budget for the last three years has been around 20 million USD per year, see here. Its personnel costs are not known.
(4) At that point, Khudai Nazar Nasrat had been holding his current post since 2012. He started as the head of the Secretariat’s translators section in 2006, was appointed head of the Secretariat’s section for legislative and parliamentary affairs a year later and was promoted to deputy secretary general in 2011.
Ibrahimi was elected member of parliament in 2005 and 2010, and, during his first term, was a member of the Internal Affairs Commission. During the anti-Soviet and anti-Taleban struggles, he was a member of Hezb-e Islami. Upon being elected to parliament, he became a key ally of former President Hamed Karzai. Currently, he is a member of the Protection and Stability Council for Afghanistan under former mujahedin leader Abdul Rabb Rassul Sayyaf, a semi-oppositional alliance to the current president (see AAN analysis here).
(5) In Afghanistan, government entities can issue contracts of less than 500,000 Afghani (approximately 7,200 USD) without approval of the National Procurement Commission. Stationery contracts, which are usually small and below the threshold, often fall prey to corruption.
(6) Apart from Homayun Homayun (Khost), the leader of the Afghanistan-e Azad parliamentary group consists of: Muhammad Azim Mohsini (Baghlan) as deputy; Muhammad Reza Khoshak (Herat) as secretary; Muhammad Ibrahim Ghoshtali (Paktia) as first spokesman; Muhammad Arif Rahmani (Ghazni) as second spokesman. The remaining members are Fathullah Qaisari (Faryab); Abdul Wahid Faqirzada (Takhar); Ahmad Farhad Majidi (Herat); Arif Tayeb (Herat); Abdul Hadi Jamshidi (Herat); Abdul Rahim Ayubi (Kandahar); Samiullah Samim (Farah); Ashequllah Wafa (Baghlan); Abdul Qadir Zazai (Kabul); Ghulam Sarwar Fayez (Badghis); Semin Barekzai (Herat); Amir Khan Yar (Nangrahar); Wodod Paiman (Kunduz); Dilawar Aimaq (Baghlan); Aqa Jan (AAN could not identify from which province this MP comes); Ali Akbar Qasemi (Ghazni); Kubra Mustafawi (Kabul); Amir Jan Dawlatzai (Nangrahar) and Haji Ismail (Herat). Dr Naqibullah Fayeq (Faryab) used to be in the group, but he left parliament and is currently the head of the Afghanistan National Standard Authority (ANSA).
See Chapter Five on the Parliamentary Groups, of the Rules of the Wolesi Jirga’s Procedures, Article 18 to 21, here for details on parliamentary groups.
(7) Homayun claimed in his report that the head of the Secretariat stopped the coverage of the session, although Nasrat stated that he was not behind it. The acting head of Wolesi Jirga TV, Ms Tabasom (full name not available), and Halim Tanwir, a temporary member of staff, told the commission that the reason for the interruption was a technical malfunction.
There is another inconsistency in this affair. According to the fact-finding commission, Ms Tabasom was verbally appointed by Nasrat as acting-head of Wolesi Jirga TV; however according to the civil employees’ law, contracted staff cannot be appointed as acting heads in an office. Nasrat denied he had appointed her as acting head.
(8) The commission had one member of the Wolesi Jirga’s (standing) commissions for Internal Audit (Abdul Hafiz Mansur from Kabul), Finance and Budget (Zaifnun Safi from Laghman), Immunities and Privileges (Mawlawi Ahmadullah Mowahed from Nuristan) and Judicial and Justice Affairs (Muhammad Hussain Sharifi Balkhabi from Sar-e Pul), plus the deputy speaker, Erfanullah Erfan, as the chair.
(9) See AAN’s analysis about the strained relationship between the executive and parliament here.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020