Corruption in telecom levy collection fallout of Pres. Ghani’s rashness

Monday, 06 February 2017 05:16 Written by  Heart of Asia Read 83 times

Afghans have been paying the price of the impetuous and emergency, but non-prioritized actions and decisions of the National Unity Government (NUG) since its inception. Without identifying priorities, the government takes random actions that do more harm than good to the people, one which is the imposition of 10% telecom service tax on mobile top-up cards.

 

Following his inauguration, President Ghani, through a legislative decree, slapped 10 percent levy on mobile phone subscribers on recharge. While the motion invited a lot of opposition from ordinary Afghans and parliamentarians, the president insisted on the implementation of his decree, and the taxation became effective. 

It was pretty clear from the very beginning that the president has made the decision hastily and without actually looking into relevant requirements because there was no telecom tax collection system in place. The critiques held the view that the government should first roll out a proper system, which can assure both the taxpayers and the government the fees withheld from the top-up cards go to government account, and there is zero possibility of embezzlement. 

The concerns came true and the telecom service tax is pocketed by the corrupt officials. Recently, the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) – an independent Afghan-International anti-corruption monitoring and evaluation body – has said in a report that senior officials of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) hamper the introduction of a system promised by the government for ensuring transparency in telecom tax collection, adding that most of the appointments made at MoCIT were based on nepotism, thereby paving the way for corruption. 

Lack of proper systems and the culture of impunity are the major contributing factors in the corruption rampant in Afghan government institutions. Governments have long failed not only to institute electronic governance systems necessary to curb corruption, but also to hold accountable and prosecute the corrupt officials. Hundreds of millions of dollars are said to be embezzled over the past 15 years, yet Afghans have not witnessed fair trial of individuals involved in mega corruption cases, except the Kabul Bank scandal case which is also marred by a great deal of suspicion. 

Government leaders should not downplay the scourge of corruption, particularly in government revenue sources because it is the very vicious phenomenon that can dash the hopes of Afghan people of becoming economically self-reliant.