The 2020 Auditor General Report has exposed huge corruption in the award of what the Protector of the Public Purse described as an irregular duty waiver concession.
“We reviewed the duty waiver concession process and observed weak internal controls in the entire process,” the report stated, adding that: “we observed that the Office of the Financial Secretary ( headed by Sahr Jusu) wrote letters to the Commissioner-General of the NRA requesting him to facilitate the clearance of duty waivers.”
That the letters purported that the Deputy Minister of Finance has approved granting duty waivers to various institutions, whose details are attached to the letter on a spreadsheet but that they did not see any evidence of the Minister’s approval in any of the documents.
That in many cases, the attached spreadsheet was also not signed or initiated by any responsible officer which makes the report very susceptible to manipulation because according to the auditor anyone can replace this list with a new one.
“Furthermore, 1,245 duty waiver documents reviewed were without adequate supporting documents. These documents include letters of request from beneficiaries stating eligibility criteria, letters from line ministry or parastatal, copy of business registration certificates, etc.,” the report revealed.
The Auditor stated that these documents are essential to determine whether the beneficiaries were entitled to duty waiver concession and that because they were not provided with the documentation, they could not ascertain whether these duty waiver concessions, granted to these taxpayers which amounted to over 100 billion Leones were legitimate.
The Auditor General stated based on their analyses and professional judgement, some categories such as diplomatic, development partners and embassies were granted waivers with a high likelihood of eligibility, although documentations were not submitted.
“For other categories such as Government MDAs, energy, construction, infrastructure, returning diplomats, MPs and others, a total of Le56.8 billion granted to taxpayers as duty waiver concession may not have been genuine,” the report noted.
That from data in the ASYCUDA world, the auditors also found out that 58 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) obtained waivers from the Ministry of Finance for import duties and GST, totaling Le4.5 billion.
That these NGOs were not in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development NGO gazette and they therefore concluded that, these NGO’s were not eligible for duty waivers concessions, and therefore waivers granted may have resulted in a potential loss of revenue to the Government.