A parliamentary committee says the acting Commissioner-General of the National Revenue Authority is in office illegally, citing the NRA Act.
Erjok Bullen Geu is the acting NRA commissioner-general.
Established in 2018, the NRA is mandated to assess, collect, administrate and enforce laws relating to taxation and revenues.
Its establishment is one of the measures meant to reduce dependency on oil revenues, strengthen the non-oil revenue sector and strengthen expenditure control required to achieve short-term fiscal austerity objectives.
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.
NRA first commissioner-general was fired in August 2019 over alleged fraud, an allegation Dr. Olympio Attipoe denied.
Before his dismissal, he reformed the public institution by 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.”
He also ensured that all the taxes collected were announced monthly. Since his removal from office, non-oil revenue collections have decreased.
In October 2019, the Acting NRA Boss, Erjok Bullen, said the authority would no longer be making public the monthly collections – claiming it was wrong in the first place, adding that the revenue authority had no power to do so.
But according to the Public Financial Management and Accountability Act 2011, all levels of government in South Sudan shall hold all income and revenue received in public accounts and subject to public scrutiny and accountability.
Dr. David Nailo, chairperson of the economic and finance committee at the yet-to-be reconstituted transitional national legislative assembly, says the current NRA acting commissioner-general is in office illegally.
“The law stipulates that in the event of the absence or incapacity of, or vacancy in the office of the commissioner-general, the deputy…shall act and exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Commissioner-General,” he said, citing the NRA Act 2016.
But the Act says the commissioner-general may not act for more than 60 consecutive days without the approval of the President.
Erjok has been acting for nearly 12 months now.
“The statute is clear about this limitation. Now the acting Commissioner-General has been acting for more than nine months now without the approval of the President,” Dr Nailo continued.
“What the law prohibits, remains prohibited, because he is acting illegally. Therefore, there is a need to remedy the situation because a huge institution like NRA cannot go ungovernable.”
Reacting to the matter, the acting Commissioner-General Erjok Bullen claimed that he is “not in the office on my own”.
“There is a need to confirm or appoint commissioner-General for NRA as a nation in order to confront the challenges that may come up during the establishment…instead of bringing a foreigner.”
According to the NRA act 2016, the position of the Commissioner-General shall be filled through a competitive process by publicly advertising the position, selecting and recommending the most suitable candidate by the minister of finance for appointment by the President.
Some of the responsibilities of the Commissioner-General among others are, to manage and administer the authority and properly manage the funds.
The NRA, under the leadership of Erjok, has been on the spotlight since he assumed office.
An investigative report conducted by Eye Radio in late 2019 showed that there were suspicious transfers of the taxpayer’s money.
In addition, President Salva Kiir and VP James Wani Igga recently revealed that non-oil revenues were getting diverted by senior officials.
In response to Kiir’s admission, political analyst Dr. James Okuk suggested that the president should lead in the implementation of the constitution by holding to account those found to have diverted taxes.
“And the law is very clear on people who really play with public goods,” Okuk said. “Their place is prison, they shouldn’t be left to be roaming freely in the country or aboard.”
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