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Corruption impacts customs revenue: Minister-designate

KABUL: Minister-designate for Finance, Muhammad Eklil Hakemi, told Wolesi Jirga that corruption has limited customs revenue but no attention was paid though it is a sustainable source of income for the country.

Outlining his future plan to improve the status of revenue collection, he said that some corrupt officials in the customs prevented reforms for taking place as the technical facilities which could have prevented drop and embezzlement in revenues were not installed.

The ministerial nominee said that only in Torkham and Kabul customs departments the machinery including electronic scales were installed. While not providing further details, Hakemi said that some corrupt persons who realized that using the technical facilities could end corruption they kept the equipment in stores.

Hakemi vowed to bring reforms in the customs for better collection of the domestic revenue through using the facilities kept in the stores and hiring professional people if he got vote of confidence from the MPs.

Establishing proper system through installation of the technical facilities and hiring professional people in the customs for collecting better revenues were the major commitments made by the nominated minister. He added that a national academy of customs for training of the employees would be established.

Hakemi also vowed to fight corruption and do not let the corrupt figures to impact the revenues. “If anyone found involved in corruption they will be send to the judicial organizations. I promise to resign from my position as minister if failed to end corruption. I will blacklist companies that do not pay taxes. Such companies will not be able to get loans from banks and the government,” he said.

Asking the government to take advantage of the short-term donations, he said that international assistance would shrink in the next two years.

He further said that he would try to bring balance in the imports and exports, but would take long time. “I will try to prioritize developmental projects while preparing fiscal year budget in the coming years. Around $30 million has been allocated for the ring road in the budget, but there is an issue between the Ministry of Public Works and the construction firm that signed the contract to complete the project.”

It is while Ministry of Finance in a statement issued here a week ago, has claimed increase in customs revenue by four percent in the current year. According to the statement, the solar year 1393 (2014) was a challenging year in terms of economic slowdown caused by withdrawal of international forces and political transition. This was also aggravated by the worsening security conditions, particularly in border areas where the ministry witnessed cases of murders and abduction of officers leading to fear and demoralization.

“However despite these difficulties, Customs collected AFS 44.8 billion for the national budget. On the other hand, the trade volume has recorded a decline of 7 % compared to last year. Moreover, the total number of declarations is reduced by 14% and the average tariff has come down as well. In spite of all these downwards situations, revenue per declaration has registered upsurge by almost 4% compared to last year which shows the efficiency level has improved in Customs. In addition, revenue collected through enforcement efforts by Mobile Verification Teams and Risk Management Unit has been increased by 180%. ACD had seizures of 21,402 grams of Gold, 25,291 grams of heroin, controlled precursors and other contrabands,” the minister said.

The minister further said in the statement that there were significant achievements on customs Automation side as well. The ASYCUDA++ module was upgraded to web based ASYCUDA World (AW) version in 85% of Custom houses. The Inland Transit System (T1) and international Transit System (T2) was migrated to AW at all major border customs. In addition, ASYCUDA World Declaration Processing System (DPS) was implemented in Kabul, Kabul International Airport (KIA), Khost, Kandahar, Herat and Aqina Custom houses and at Torkham and Islam Qala BCPs. With all these activities, more than 90% of the trade is now covered by ASYCUDA World version. The Risk management system was rolled out to seven customs houses for better control and improved trade facilitation. In the reforms side, the Afghan Customs Department has utilized 98% of its developmental budget on developmental projects. The Kandahar, Khost Custom’s buildings, Nimroz warehouses and parking lots, laboratory building at HQ, Andkhoi parking lot, and several other projects were completed. Afghan National Customs Academy (ANCA) was launched and it would provide excellent training arrangements for custom officers. So far, 290 custom officers were trained and 300 custom officers were sent for short term overseas trainings.

Regarding challenges the ministry said that ACD has a number of internal as well as external challenges. Prominent internal constraints include absence of professional and skilled staff, lack of capacity, and low level of the salary level of the employees. This is exacerbated by the lack of proper cargo handling and detection equipment and in some places lack of adequate infrastructure facilities. In relation to the external challenges, the deteriorating security condition in the country is a big threat towards trade and revenue collections, particularly at remote border stations. The porous borders with the neighboring countries pave the way for smuggling of the goods thereby leading to revenue loss. Moreover, the lack of proper cooperation and coordination of the border agencies with the Customs at the border is another external challenge ACD has faced so far. (Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi)

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