The Herat Provincial Council claims that based on their findings on daily basis an average of 70 percent of Herat’s customs revenue is missing. Nearly 100 trucks, loaded with goods, enter the city from Islam Qala port without paying custom duty, the local officials say.
On Saturday, June 05, members of the Herat Provincial Council in a meeting called on the government authorities to end corruption at the customs office. Turyalai Taheri, deputy chairperson of the council, says that almost 70 million afghanis in customs revenue is “stolen” by an unidentified group of people.
Mr. Taheri called on President Ghani to have a close oversight on customs offices: “our request for the president is to prevent the loss of revenue from public properties and not ignore it anymore.”
“Herat’s local administration hasn’t done anything to fight corruption at Herat customs,” says Mr. Taheri. “There are corruption mafia at Herat customs and they do not pay the revenue for nearly 100 trucks per day.”
The Herat Provincial Council urge security officials to identify criminals and bring them to justice. Hamdullah Hamdard, director of Herat customs, admits that a mafia group blocks the customs’ work. “Customs office is located in Islam Qala. We asked the central [government], the National Directorate of Security, and Herat’s Police Chief to help us improve customs [services].”
Since the customs office was moved from Herat city and relocated in Islam Qala, the revenue has decreased. Many times, the merchants and traders asked the government authorities to relocate it back to the city. Sayed Waheed Qatali, governor of Herat, had assured that the government would relocate the customs office back to the city and bring fundamental reforms in the office but to no avail.
Ahmad Saeed Azmiyan, the deputy chairman of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment, criticizes the ongoing corruption at customs office. “Our request is to change the location of customs [office] and relocate it back to the city, where it is safer than Islam Qala. Many times, bank employees were targeted, killed, and kidnapped by unknown gunmen on the way to Islam Qala. Many believe that the ongoing terror on Herat-Islam Qala road is related to ongoing corruption at the custom,” he added.
According to the Herat Provincial Council, the corruption cases filed by National Directorate of Security (NDS), are delayed at Herat’s prosecutor’s office. Council members urge the Herat prosecutor’s office to send corruption related cases to the court in order to reduce corruption at customs offices.
Statistics from officials at Herat prosecutor’s office show that since mid-April, three corruption cases have been investigated and the cases would be sent to court soon.
Abdul Haq Ahmadi, head of Herat prosecutor’s office told Kabul Now that investigating corruption cases is a complicated and time consuming procedure. “After we receive enough evidences on corruption cases, we start our work. One of our top priorities is to fight against corruption. The cases are dealt in a timely manner with care and justice.” He added that over last year they prosecuted 80 culprits who were involved in corruption and embezzlement.
Jilani Farhad, spokesperson for the governor of Herat, says that the local government’s approach in fighting against corruption is serious. The Herat Provincial Council is consulting with regulatory bodies on the performance of Herat’s revenue departments to monitor the process of importing goods through Islam Qala customs office.
Officials at the customs office say that fighting against corruption has intensified over the last week. Mr. Hamdard told Kabul Now that they have collected 279 million afghanis over past one week. He noted that sometimes the customs revenue collection even reach 74 million afghanis in a single day.
According to him, they would install and activate digital scales soon in order to prevent forgery of documents and reducing weight of imported good. Many times, due to deactivation of digital scales, merchants pay less revenues.
As stated by Herat’s customs officials, they had collected a total of 18 billion afghanis during the 1398 Fiscal Year while the target for the year was set 32 billion afghanis. It suggested a 14 billion difference which seems quite a large amount to be obtained and meet the target.
With the outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent crisis in Afghanistan and regional countries, the Afghan customs offices face a major challenge to meet the target.
Most of the goods are imported to Afghanistan through the Islam Qala port. Although widespread concerns and criticisms have been made over alleged corruption in the customs office, no significant measure has been taken against corruption at the customs office.