The Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) in a new report to assess vulnerabilities to corruption in the customs and tax administration of Afghanistan, reported 11 of the Customs and Revenue Department (CRD) found the key conditions that affect reforms.
The report assessed the two directorates of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) – the Customs Department and Revenue Department.
It covers assessments from July to November 2019 from interviews, group discussions, direct monitoring and the review of documents in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar and Balkh provinces.
Within the MoF, the report finds illegal interference by government officials, parliamentarians and war lords to influence the administration and lead to corruption. These practices include smuggling, bribery as well as extortion and threats of violence against Customs and Tax officials.
The large difference in import export figures between Afghanistan and its trade partners is due to the lack or inconsistent implementation of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding. For instance, the report says, the UAE’s data on trade with Afghanistan was 14 times more than the Afghan figures.
The MEC also found loopholes in the MoF’s human resources management that includes serious violations in regulations on the appointments of civil service employees. Especially in the customs department, bribery accusations were reported when senior officials were involved in the recruitment.
Frequent shutdown, license expiry and outdated information systemns in the tax department, and out-of-service scanner and a lack of a power back-up in the customs offices affects the taxpayers’ collection system and hinder customs operations at border crossings.
The report also says that customs officials lack the ability to adhere to the World Customs Organization guidelines to control transit goods, prevent unnecessary delays, and avoid the re-export of goods.
Moreover, low-quality seals are used on trucks, making it hard to trace the goods. Trucks are also not being searcher properly and there is potential for money to exchange hands for short-cuts or preferential treatment for clearance.
Within the revenue department also, the MEC said taxpayers’ queries are not handled professionally, leaving them vulnerable to corruption as the officials may take decisions based on their own interpretation or guidance which is not public knowledge.
There is no proper administrative approved procedure or guidelines for face-to-face meetings between officials and taxpayers. This results in collusion with or corruption of tax officials through falsification of data and documents.
Tax administrations also lack experienced and qualified staff to execute an audit, the MEC reports.
MEC officials, who presented the report, said they have not been able to assess all the issues at Torkham customs due to “threats and obstruction by customs officials there.”
“There are cases at the Attorney General’s Office from customs that have been left there for years,” said Maiwand Rouhani, head of the MEC secretariat.