Acting Minister of Finance Khaled Payenda on Thursday said there have been no reforms at the customs offices in Afghanistan in the past decade, and this neglect has paved the way for 50 percent of revenue to be embezzled.
Meanwhile, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has said that political interference has been a major hurdle in the past several years to bringing reforms to the Ministry of Finance.
The Afghan national revenues are estimated to be around $5.5 billion annually.
But the Finance Ministry says that half of the revenues are bring embezzled.
“There has been no reforms at customs in the past ten years, some areas were kept weak deliberately,” said Khaled Payenda, the acting minister of finance.
President Ashraf Ghani, after assuming office in 2014, pledged to bring reforms to Afghanistan’s economic sector and to combat corruption effectively, but critics say that Ghani did nothing to boost the economy or curb corruption.
“Half of your revenues are being embezzled,” said Ghani during a gathering.
“We are gravely concerned about the centralization of power and the unlimited authority that has been given to the administrative office of the president. The administrative office of the president is not excluded from cases of misuse of authority, and the move paves the way for corruption,” said Naser Taimoori, IWA researcher.
“There has been massive interference from various institutions to bring the Ministry of Finance under control. This issue prevented us from collecting revenues or attracting aid,” said MP Ali Akbar Jamshidi.
The acting finance minister says that reforms in the customs area, as well as the creation of nine new units, are part of a new reform agenda of the ministry.
Meanwhile, Dr. William Byrd, a US economist and member of the United States Institute of Peace, said that if mismanagement, corruption and irregularities in the Ministry of Finance are not tackled, the issue will damage the reputation of the Afghan political system and government in the peace process.
He said that in the past year-and-a-half the head of the customs department, and the heads of the administration and finance departments have been fired from their jobs.