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Attipoe free to travel, says finance minister

Author: Emmanuel J Akile | Published: Friday, January 3, 2020

Dr. Olympio Attipoe, Former Commissioner -General National Revenue Authority (NRA) addresses journalists during a press conference in Juba [Photo| Eye Radio/Joakino Francis - June 11, 2019.

The minister of finance and planning has said the former commissioner general of the National Revenue Authority is now free to travel after a committee formed to investigate him over finances of the NRA cleared him of some of the allegations.

In October last year, the minister of finance Salvatore Garang issued a ministerial order forming a five-man committee to probe Dr. Olympio Attipoe for allegedly opening private accounts with commercial banks within and outside the country and for being the sole signatory to  block account of the NRA.

The finance minister wanted the committee to find out if the former commissioner had misused two per cent of the annual collection meant for operation of the revenue-collecting body.

Mr. Garang also demanded an explanation as to why Dr. Attipoe called for press briefings to announce monthly revenue collections without authorization from the ministry of finance.

However after spending four months without a job and restricted from movement, the finance ministry has released a statement lifting the restrictions on Attipoe.

“Upon reviewing the relevant findings of the investigation committee and its recommendations, and after conducting further consultations with the stakeholders and the leadership, I am pleased to inform you that you are free to stay or travel to any destination of your choice anywhere at any time you wish including your home country,” Minister Garang said in a letter addressed to to former NRA chief.

But it is not ckear whether the investigation has cleared the former NRA chief of all the allegations labelled against him.

Dr. Attipoe however welcomed the decision by the finance minister, calling it as “gratifying”.

“The conclusion is very gratifying, at least the whole world, everybody and the people of South Sudan now know that after all the allegations labeled against me are not true,” Dr. Attipoe told Eye Radio on Friday.

“So that fabrication is just misleading information in order to destabilize a government institution which is about to generate enough revenue for the country. I always say that you cannot find water in desert, if there is nothing, there is nothing.”

Dr. Attipoe, a Ghanaian national was appointed by President Kiir in 2018 with a mandate of assessing, collecting, administrating and enforcing laws relating to taxation and revenues across the country.

The last announcement made by the NRA was in August last year when it said about 5 million US dollar and another 1.5 billion Pounds were collected bringing to 41 million US dollar and over 8 billion pounds, the total collection from the non-oil revenue from January to July 2019.

Since his removal, the NRA ceased announcing monthly collections, with the acting commissioner-general claiming the announcement of monthly collection of non-oil revenue to the public is wrong, adding that the revenue authority has no power to do so.

As the boss of the NRA, Dr. Attipoe notably set up the government institution despite “resistance” from some senior government officials.

He closed down private bank accounts some officials were using to wire taxes into, and set up the single treasury account for pooling tax payers’ money.

“So they have done their job in a very professional manner and the conclusion has exonerated me, exonerated the board, we have done nothing. Now people should be asking question, why did people did what they did,” he dded of the probe team.

Attipoe once made a memorable anti-corruption statement, while inaugurating Gogrial State Revenue Authority in Kuajok in November 2018.

He said “you cannot call yourself a rich man because you’ve successfully managed to divert government resources into your pocket. If you want to be rich, demonstrate it, use your talent and you make sure that you work hard to become rich. You don’t become rich because of government resources and then pride yourself.”

During his investigation, he revealed to Eye Radio that the monthly non-oil revenues collected can help the government pay salaries and arrears of all civil servants in South Sudan.

A foot soldier in South Sudan receives roughly 1,800 South Sudanese pounds or 6 US dollar per month and civil servants go between 5 and to 6 months without salaries despite harsh economic conditions.

This reportedly resulted to the squalid living conditions of soldiers, police and teachers as the government continues to receive millions from oil and non-oil revenues.

A report released last year by The Sentry, showed that top government officials are amassing wealth through foreign business people, whom they used as conduits to siphon money out of the country.

The government has always complained that it lacks money to pay salaries or even fund the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.

But South Sudan receives about 5 million US dollar per day from the sale of crude oil in the international market.

According to the former commissioner-general, the non-oil revenue alone can pay salaries and services of all government institutions while  the oil money can be used for other developmental projects.

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