Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Saturday strongly criticized a decision by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani to split up the Afghan Ministry of Finance into three separate entities including the office of revenues and customs, the office of the treasury, and the finance administration.
Based on Ghani's plan, the ministry will be divided into the office of revenues and customs, the office of the treasury, and the finance administration.
The IWA said that despite the dire need for reforms in the Ministry of Finance, the structural overhaul proposed by Ghani will create more problems.
“The structural change in the Ministry of Finance and the move to split the customs department and the department of the treasury should have been carried out already over the past 5 years. The current move is not looking logical and relevant,” said IWA researcher Naser Taimoori.
“The move to create three independent entities means that the president wants to transfer the specific authorities and responsibilities of the Ministry of Finance to the Arg (Presidential Palace),” said Abdul Qader Jailani, the former spokesman to Ministry of Finance.
Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers have said that Ghani has not consulted the Afghan parliament for his decision and it’s a violation of the law.
“No consultation has been made with the parliament regarding this issue. This indicates clear interference in the work of the parliament by the government,” said MP Jawed Sapai.
“Thousands of our people are jobless despite having higher education degrees, but one person comes and occupies three or four posts. This indicates direct involvement in corruption,” said MP Ziauddin Aqazoi.
Lawmakers said that the government, by making such a move, wants to reduce the accountability of the money-generating entities.
“This is against the law. It looks like a reduction of accountability to the house of people (parliament) and it is a kind of monopolization by the government where it (govt) tries to snatch the authority of the parliament,” said Zalmai Noori, a member of the Afghan parliament’s finance and budget commission.
The Ministry of Finance has four deputy ministerial offices, including the deputy minister's office for revenues and customs, the deputy minister's office for policies, the deputy minister's office for finance and the deputy minister's office for administration. Sources said the deputy minister’s office for the policy will be transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On March 31, the United States Institute of Peace said that "dismembering" the Ministry of Finance in this manner will cripple it.
United States Institute of Peace in the report stated that it believes that moving key ministry functions to the president’s office is "bad for governance, development, and the sustainability of peace."
“MoF plays a linchpin role in Afghanistan’s public sector. It raises well over $2 billion in government revenues annually; mobilizes and manages close to $3 billion of on-budget international aid per year; pays the salaries of some 400,000 Afghan civil servants (including more than 200,000 teachers) and over 300,000 soldiers and police; and is responsible for budgeting, spending, and accounting for the annual national budget of more than $5 billion. It is a critical hub of the government, interacting with other ministries, parliament, aid donors, international institutions, audit agencies, and the private sector as well as the Afghan people. MoF pays for and financially oversees delivery of key services—directly in the case of education, and indirectly in the case of basic public health,” according to the United States Institute of Peace.
Alice G. Wells, the US State Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, tweeted about the "troubling" USIP report that described the Afghan government's "carving out" parts of the MoF and bringing them under Palace control. Wells said: "The Afghan people need an accountable government."
Based on the plan, The ministry will be divided into the office of revenues and customs, the office of the treasury, and the finance administration.
This comes as the Presidential Palace recently divided the Ministry of Energy and Water into two institutions: the office of power and the office of water management.