KABUL (Pajhwok): The chairman of the Ministry of Finance Tax Dispute Resolution Board (TDRB) has been appointed illegally, with some lawmakers claiming that jobs at the ministry are being doled out on the basis of what they call a deal.
The Finance Ministry, however, denied any illegality in the appointment of the TDRB chairman. It insists all legal requirements with regard to the high-level appointment had been met.
A formal MoF letter (No. 2766), whose copy is available to Pajhwok Afghan News, shows approval for the appointment of 23 heads of different departments on 22/02/2020 in compliance with a presidential order.
But a well-placed source, wishing not to be named, revealed Mohammad Umar Momand was among 23 newly-appointed officers. He was made TDRB chairman without consent from the Councils of Ministers, the official alleged.
Article 55 of the Afghanistan Income Tax Administrative Law says: “Under Clause 1, the appointments of members of the board are referred by the ministry to the president for approval after go-ahead from the cabinet.”
Clause 8 of Article 55 says: “The dismissal of a TDRB member happens on the referral of the finance minister and approval from the Council of Ministers when he/she lacks the ability to carry out is responsibilities in line with relevant laws, indicted by a functioning court over misuse of authority or in case of resignation.”
The source, however, questioned the sacking of former chairman Abdul Zahoor Mehran because none of the conditions for resignation/firing applied to him.
Clause 6 of Article 55 says, “The tenure of a board member is five years that could be extended if he/she meets conditions for an extension.”
Mehran was appointed as chairman of the TDRB on 13/7/1398. He did not complete his five years tenure.
Sohrab Wardak, chief auditor of the High Audit Office, claimed the sitting chairman, Mohammad Omar, had skipped the legal procedures needed for appointment as TDRB chief.
“The president has been misguided in a recommendation tabled by the Ministry of Finance for the appointment of Mohammad Omar. The former chairman can register a complaint to regain his right.”
Legal expert Qudratullah Hasrat held a similar view, saying the Council of Ministers should have been presented with logical arguments on the dismissal of former chairman and later decision regarding future should have been taken.
He charged the decision of the president was against the law and the Council of Ministers should discuss the issue.
Rivalry or deals?
The source claimed the remaining 22 heads of different departments had been appointed without their professional experience being taken into consideration.
First and second-grade posts in the Customs and Revenue Department have not been announced for recruitment by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Services Commission (IARCSC) over the past six years.
Without presenting any documentary evidence, the source said: “These positions at the Finance Ministry are highly important and generate money for the government. Appointments to the posts, therefor, are finalised on the basis of deals, bribes and nepotism.”
The Wolesi Jirga Finance and Budget Commission secretary and some members of the panel also faulted the appointment of the 23 new heads of departments. They charged some appointments in the ministry took place based on deals and corruption, particularly the in Customs offices.
Wolesi Jirga Finance Commission Secretary Syed Azim Kabarzani says “Twenty-three corrupt people have been appointed on the basis of bribery and alleged discrimination in the recruitment process.”
Mir Afghan Safi, a member of the commission, said: “We call upon the president to eradicate corruption from Customs and Revenue Offices. If corruption is prevented, our revenue could fund the ordinary budget.
“I am confident that currently we cannot collect 30 percent of our revenue due to corruption and deal-based appointments,” the legislator remarked.
“Hundreds of cargo trucks escape taxes in Farah, Herat and Nimroz customs offices,” he claimed.
But Shamroz Khan Masjidi, Finance Ministry’s spokesperson, rejected the allegations as groundless. He said Momand’s appointment was not against the law.
Mohmand was appointed as head of the TDRB in line with Clause 4 of Article 55 of the Income Tax Administrative Law, the spokesman explained.
Clauses 3 and 4 allow the MoF to bring changes to the board, if necessary. He maintained Momand had enough experience and was promoted to lead the board.
Mehran remained a member of the board, he said, adding the board had no six members.
Masjidi agreed the head and members of the board should be appointed after approval from the Council of Ministers. He said he president also had the authority to appoint the board’s chairman.
Clause 5 of Article 55 of the Income Tax Administrative Law says: “The chairman of TDRB is appointed by the president from amongst board members.”
Masjidi did not provide a direct answer when asked about transparency in the appointment process for the 23 departmental heads.
He said MoF was working with the IASCRC to develop rules that would help the ministry in the appointment of individuals to different customs and revenue positions. He assured all posts at the ministry would be filled on merit once the manual was prepared.
He said some lawmakers frequently alleged corruption in the ministry but they never came up with documentary proofs in support of their allegations.
Some individuals had been appointed to the ministry in compliance with a presidential decree, he continued. He also rejected the assertion this first and second-grade positions were not filled through an open competition.
Farid Ahmad, spokesman for the Independent Administrative Reform on Civil Service Commission (IARCSC), said over the past few years, some MoI posts had not been announced and they were concerned at the practice.
He said the Civil Services Commission was committed to keeping the recruitment process transparent so that rights of individuals were not violated.
Deal-based appointments and consequences
This may be one of the reasons behind the drop in national revenue and the transfer of funds from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) to fund budgetary shortfalls twice this year — something that has not happened over the past 17 years.
The MoF Revenue Department report for 1399 indicates the government has for a second time transferred an additional 13 billion afghanis from DAB to the exchequer due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to reports, the Supreme Court director signed an order on January 5 last year for the transfer of 15 billion afghanis from the central bank to the MoF on verbal instructions from the president.
A reliable source in MoF, wishing anonymity, said it was a second time that 13 million afghanis had been transferred from DAB to the MoF to meet the budget deficit. The ministry is now facing a budget shortfall.
On the other hand, online revenue reports from MoF show the government’s income had decreased by about five billion afghanis in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
The government’s revenue in the first three months of the current fiscal year was 38.350 billion afghanis — compared to 43,380 billion afghanis in the same period last year.
MoF online reports show non-tax revenue once increased from 2,185 billion afghanis to 15,271 afghanis in March this year after the transfer of this money.
Sharifullah Shigiwal, spokesman for Da Afghanistan Bank, said it was DAB’s net profit during last year that was transferred to MoF based on the law.
He added: “In the first phase during 1398, DAB transferred 15 billion afghanis from its net profit and in second phase it transferred 12.7 billion to the national exchequer.”
Shiqiwal said DAB was able to transfer its net profit to the government and it had done so before as well.
MoF spokesman Shamroz Khan Masjidi said DAB had earned a profit of 25 billion afghanis last year when the ministry deposited 14 to 15 billion afghanis and 12 billion afghanis this year in the exchequer.
He insisted the transfers to the national exchequer — not from DAB assets — happened in line with the law.