23rd September 2020
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More questions emerge as NRA explains away ‘suspicious bank transfers’

Author: Ayuen Panchol | Published: Monday, November 25, 2019

The Acting Commissioner-General of the National Revenue Authority has disputed a recent Eye Radio report, saying the bank transfers he authorized out of the non-oil revenue collections were “genuine and legal” – further raising more questions than answers.

Erjok Bullen Geu was reacting to the article suggesting that he recently made suspicious bank transfers in contravention of the NRA Act which grants the institution not more than 2 percent of total non-oil revenue collections.

In a statement dated 23 November 2019, Bullen said the transfers were part of payment of some money the Ministry of Finance and Planning owes a certain company named Zawadi Service South Sudan Limited which constructed an NRA office at the border town of Nimule.

He goes on to say that the $3,754,358 construction deal was signed by the former minister of finance and planning and former director-general of Custom Service in 2014.

“After Zawadi threatened to close down the premises early this year, the current minister of finance made a commitment to pay the arrears in installments through National Revenue Authority Operations Account,” reads the statement.

“The minister then instructed the Acting Commissioner-General to make the first payment of USD 1,000,000 equivalent in September, the second payment in October and the third payment in November 2019 consecutively.”

However, the National Revenue Authority, according to the Act, is only mandated to collect non-oil revenues  and does not disburse revenues on behalf of the government.

Bullen does not explain what part of the law allows the National Revenue Authority to act on behalf of the ministry of finance and planning, which manages government revenues and expenditures and has several directorates which deal with public contracts and payments for services rendered to the government.

He said these payments were agreed to by his predecessor, Dr. Olympio Attipoe.

In response, Dr. Attipoe said he knew about it “but that contract is between the ministry of finance and the company”.

“I did not agree to make any payment of that nature because l had no authority to do so. The documents were referred to the Ministry of Finance and Planning for payment before my removal,” Dr. Attipoe told Eye Radio on Monday.

“The question is, did the Parliament approve supplementary budget for NRA just within the first quarter of the fiscal year? No. So, why should NRA spend twice the whole year budget in four months? In accordance with the Public Financial Management and Accountability Act, 2011, even the minister cannot increase budget allocation of any government institutions without supplementary budget approved by the Parliament and signed by the president.”

In addition, Bullen could not furnish Eye Radio with documents showing the deal entered into by the ministry with Zawadi Services South Sudan, as well as the details of the Customs office it erected.

He said Zawadi, which is not mentioned in any of the bank documents, wanted to close down the office over the arrears, a move that does not fall under general practice. Normally, such a conflict would be settled in a competent court of law.

It is to be noted that these transactions by the NRA are direct violation of the Public Financial Management and Accountability Act (PFMAA), Financial Act, Appropriation Act and the National Revenue Act, all legal instruments, enacted by the National Legislative Assembly and assented to by the President of the Republic in accordance with the provisions of Article 55 (3) (b) read together with Article 85 (1) of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan.

On a related issue, as per the bank documents, Eye Radio noted that there had been an unexplained significant reduction in the non-oil revenue collections since August 2019.

Bullen attributes the decline in revenue collection since he assumed office in August 2019 to rainy season.

He said: “The revenue collection has slightly reduced due to rainy season which has limited the supply of imported goods to the national capital, Juba, and the border states of Torit, Yei River and Kapoeta…unlike dry season when traders can supply all the 32 states…”

However, Bullen, who recently stopped announcement of monthly collections due to unsatisfactory explanations, contradicted himself by claiming that the monthly collections have actually increased by 30 percent.

“NRA is improving compared to previous months, though I am not authorized to say this,” Bullen writes. “The collection of non-oil revenues has gone higher than before. It has increased by 30 percent.”

If the monthly non-oil revenue collections have “slightly reduced” due to rainy season, as acknowledged by the Acting Commissioner-General, how can they possibly “increase” again by 30 per cent as stated by the NRA?

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