28th November 2020
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Dr. Attipoe speaks on new revelations of imprudent revenue collection

Authors: Emmanuel Joseph Akile | Daniel Danis | Published: Monday, September 14, 2020

Dr. Attipoe Olympio, former commissioner general for NRA addressing journalists in Juba in June 2019 | Credit | Juba Monitor

The former commissioner-general of the National Revenue Authority says South Sudan can only improve its revenue stream if “everyone adheres to the financial management regulation.”

Dr. Olympio Attipoe still believes the country can change its current economic trajectory through an independent revenue authority and prudent systems of revenue collections.

His remarks follow revelations that the country has lost billions of pounds and millions of dollars from various government institutions over lack of accountability, and tax exemptions.

Last week, the current Acting Commissioner General of the NRA informed the parliament that the country has lost almost 40 billion South Sudanese Pounds in the last three months alone.

Erjok Bullen attributed the leakage to tax exemption.

Similarly, the Economic Crises Management Committee discovered that $3.1 million was missing at the Directorate of Nationalities Passport and Immigration.

The traffic police headquarters has also been accused of not accounting for funds collected through the issuance of number plates, licenses, and the logbooks.

The Economic Crisis Management Committee established by the President last month is also conducting investigations into the exemptions of imports, and trail unaccounted monies by the country’s revenue-generating institutions.

“The government should ensure that the revenue authority which is a backbone of the economy is left alone. Get a commissioner-general to make sure that by law you recruit the right people, put the system and structure in place and then the collection system and remittance system is in place,” Dr. Olympio Attipoe told Eye Radio from Accra on Friday -in an exclusive interview.

The Ghanaian national said that South Sudan can not and should not explicitly rely on oil revenue because the price of crude oil may continue to decline.

He maintains that oil is not a sustainable resource stream compared to other domestic revenue.

“As long as the international big players like the U.S, Russia and Saudi Arabia are fighting among themselves, the price of oil will continue to fall,” Dr. Attipoe stated.

The establishment of the NRA in 2018 was meant to help the country reduce dependency on oil revenues, strengthen the non-oil revenue sector and strengthen expenditure control required to achieve short-term fiscal austerity objectives.

Before his dismissal in 2019, Dr. Olympio introduced rigorous reform ideas in the public institution by establishing the Treasury Single Account, where all government revenues are wired into, was opened and became operational in December 2018.

Prior to this, taxpayers’ money was getting diverted into accounts that were opened and managed by some senior government officials, according to reports.

He also mobilizing NGOs to pay taxes for items that had not been waived, and publicly advertising positions of commissioners – including asking the existing ones to apply, saying: “Being a general or soldier doesn’t mean you automatically work for NRA.”

Taxes collected were also announced monthly. But since his removal from office, non-oil revenue collections have decreased after the current Acting NRA Boss, Erjok Bullen, claimed it was wrong for the NRA to make public information about funds collected, adding that “the revenue authority had no power to do so.”

In July 2020, President Salva Kiir admitted that non-oil revenues are not being fully remitted into the single block account of the National Revenue Authority.

He said when collected and well managed, the non-oil revenue should be able to meet the government’s expenditure.

Government employees, especially the soldiers, police and teachers, are reportedly living in squalid conditions as the government continues to receive millions from oil and non-oil revenue.

“To address this pandemic problem, we shall be exploring ways and means to speedily rectify this situation such that at the very least, we are able to pay monthly salaries on time,” Kiir said in his independence day speech.

A foot soldier in South Sudan receives roughly 1,800 South Sudanese pounds or $6 per month.

But it is now a common occurrence for civil servants in South Sudan to go for 5 to 6 months without salaries despite harsh economic conditions.

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

Dr. Olympio Attipoe who was appointed by President Kiir in 2018 through a deal with the African Development Bank said improving the economic all boils down to the integrity of individuals assigned to collect and preserve public funds.

“The leadership should know that they put the right people at the right place and make sure they adhere to the Financial Management Regulation Act and make sure that the system -especially the non-oil generation is well established. That is the only solution,” he concluded.

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