(MENAFN- Pajhwok Afghan News)
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Annual revenue of more than 19 million afghanis from 728 municipality stalls in Mazar-i-Sharif landed in private pockets instead of state coffers, Pajhwok Afghan News has reliably learnt.
The stalls are owned by the Mazar-i-Sharif Municipality, but according to Pajhwok Afghan News findings, from 2015 to early 2021, revenue from these kiosks lined the pockets of some individuals.
An investigative report on the issue disclosed that each stall was rented out for about 2,200 afs a month. The annual revenue from the stalls accounted for 19,219,200 afs.
Despite that fact that the stalls are the property of the municipality, powerful individuals occupied and rented them out for 5,000 afs to 500,000 afs.
In addition, the stalls were handed by one powerful individual to another and the revenue collected from them went to private pockets.
The stalls at key points in the northern city sold herbals, children's garments and other items.
Mayor Maulvi Qudratullah Tariq, in an inclusive chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, acknowledged massive corruption and stealing of municipality revenue. But the misuse of revenue had been stopped, he explained.
While looking at municipality documents, he said they came to know that revenue collected from 728 stalls landed in private pockets instead of the state treasury.
Each booth was rented out for 2,200 afs, the mayor said, adding different people occupied the kiosks and became shareholders.
Tariq alleged:“Most of the municipality revenue was embezzled during the previous government. The revenue from 728 stalls went to private pockets. Each stall was charged 2,200 afs. Some of the kiosks were purchased by powerful individuals and the municipality was thus deprived of a handsome income.”
But after the Islamic Emirate's takeover, he claimed, corruption had been eliminated. A fair tax would be collected from the individuals running the stalls, considering their economic condition, he promised.
The tax would go to the municipality, not to strongmen, the official assured. A strategy, he said, was being worked out.
Tariq asserted after a halt to corruption, there had been a drastic surge in the revenue of the municipality. Nobody would be allowed to commit corruption, he maintained.
The mayor also made clear that nobody would be allowed to embezzle municipality funds or sell its stalls on their own.
Kiosks sold to us: Stallers
Mohammad Hassan, a resident of Mazar-i-Sharif, ran a stall in the city one and half year back. He sold mobile phones and electrical items.
Hassan said he had purchased the stall from an individual. But after six months, the stall was snatched from him and sold to another person.
He complained the kiosk was very small but he paid 2,500 afs monthly.
“They came on the 28th or 29th of every month to receive the monthly rent. We were not provided any receipt for payments. But they had a notebook in which they wrote our names and the amounts paid.”
In addition, he said, 20 afs were collected daily from each staller for the welfare of the elder.
But Ziaul Haq, another staller, said he had never paid illegal gratification over the past three months.
He said at the end of every month, municipality employees collect a specific amount of money from them and provided receipts.
Meanwhile, residents urged the municipality to ensure more transparency and fairness in revenue collection.
Civil society activists
Dr. Ghulam Rasoul Mazhari, a civil society activist, called corruption and revenue embezzlement a serious issue during the Ghani administration.
He believed more cases of corruption and fund embezzlement could be unearthed if fair investigations are conducted.
Mazhari said powerful individuals and local strongmen in the previous government had rented out state properties at low rates. Such stalls and shops were then sublet to other people at higher rates.
According to him, there would be an unprecedented surge in the revenue if municipality ensured transparency and collected revenue in time.
He also suggested urban revenue should be spent on infrastructure development of the city and on facilitating common people.
Pajhwok strived to approach former officials for comments, but no contact could be established. Some ex-government officials are out of the country.
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