‘Dismembering’ of ministry sparks reactions

KABUL (Tolo News): Local and international voices have been raised in response to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) division into three separate government institutions, according to the new plan by President Ashraf Ghani.

Among the critics is Anwarul Haq Ahadi, the former minister of finance during Karzai’s administration, who described the move as “problematic and illogical”:

“If the dismembering happens in the Ministry of Finance, then this should be applied to the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education and other ministries too; therefore, I don’t see any logic behind this,” said Ahadi. Meanwhile, a document seen by TOLOnews shows that President Ghani has approved the formation of a directorate under the Administrative Office of the President to run government companies and limited partnerships as well as their projects. The authority was previously operating under the Finance Ministry.

The document shows that Haris Hanaan has been appointed to head the directorate. Some lawmakers in Afghanistan’s parliament also expressed concerns over the move by Ghani to split the Finance Ministry into three separate entities, saying the president wants to bring three money-generating entities of the ministry under the control of the Presidential Palace.

The ministry will be divided into the office of revenues and customs, the office of the treasury, and the finance administration, said sources earlier this week. Lawmakers said that the government, by making such a move, wants to evade accountability for the money-generating entities. “This is against the law. It looks like an evasion of accountability to the house of people (parliament) and it is a kind of monopolization by the government where it (govt) tries to snatch the authorities of the parliament,” said Zalmai Noori, a member of the Afghan parliament’s finance and budget commission.

“The parliament will never allow this to happen,” said Farida Hamidi, a member of the parliament. The Ministry of Finance has four deputy ministerial offices, including the deputy minister’s office for revenues and customs, the deputy minister’s office for policies, the deputy minister’s office for finance and the deputy minister’s office for administration. Sources said the deputy minister’s office for the policy will be transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On March 31, the United States Institute of Peace said that dismembering of the Ministry of Finance in this manner will cripple the ministry. United States Institute of Peace in the report stated that it believes that moving key ministry functions to the president’s office is bad for governance, development, and the sustainability of peace

“MoF plays a linchpin role in Afghanistan’s public sector. It raises well over $2 billion in government revenues annually; mobilizes and manages close to $3 billion of on-budget international aid per year; pays the salaries of some 400,000 Afghan civil servants (including more than 200,000 teachers) and over 300,000 soldiers and police; and is responsible for budgeting, spending, and accounting for the annual national budget of more than $5 billion. It is a critical hub of the government, interacting with other ministries, parliament, aid donors, international institutions, audit agencies, and the private sector as well as the Afghan people. MoF pays for and financially oversees delivery of key services—directly in the case of education, and indirectly in the case of basic public health,” according to the United States Institute of Peace. Alice G. Wells, the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs tweeted the “troubling” USIP report that described the Afghan government’s “carving out” parts of the MoF and bringing them under Palace control. Wells said: “The Afghan people need an accountable government.”