Title: The Electronic Financial Form (15): Corruption and the Efforts to Curb the Phenomenon
Author: Sudan Democracy First Group
Date: 10-28-2015, 02:21 PM
02:21 PM Oct, 28 2015
Sudan Democracy First Group-
My Library at SudaneseOnline
The introduction of the federal government system in Sudan in 2005 established three levels of government in the country: federal, state and local. The country’s financial revenues system was also divided in the same manner.
Despite the restructuring of the country’s financial system, one financial instrument has remained unchanged at all levels: Financial Revenues Form number 15, widely known as Form 15. As the only government-approved instrument for revenue collection (taxes and other fees), Form 15’s use is mandated by financial agencies across all levels of government.
Form 15: What is it and how it is used
The Government of Sudan (GoS) used to print Form 15 at the GoS Printing House and distribute it to all government agencies through the Ministry of Finance’s (MoF) Department of Storage and Logistics. The forms, printed in carbon copy booklets, are individually numbered and lettered, and contain basic fields including the name of government agency collecting the revenues (ministry, state or locality); the name of the payee; type of service extended to the payee; the amount of money paid in figures and letters; the name and signature of the collecting official; and the date of the transaction.
With the advancement of printing technology in Sudan, Form 15 underwent several changes, including the addition of security features to protect the form against forgery, as well as the elimination of the carbon sheets. In addition, the Sudan Currency Printing Press took over the form’s printing, while the MoF became the sole holder and distributor of the form after the liquidation of the Department of Storage and Logistics. However, Form 15 retained its original content and standing as a bank note, which requires that it be handled with the utmost security. This means that at every point of distribution, the receiving revenue collection agency—whether at the federal, state or local level—must officially acknowledge receipt of the Form 15 booklets.
The distribution of Form 15 follows specific steps. Officials at the MoF use Form 12S to deliver consignments of Form 15 booklets to Federal Ministries and State governments. Form 12S contains information fields such as: the form’s serial number, the receiving entity, the name of the receiving official and date. The receiving entity acknowledges its custody of the forms by completing Form 46 which contains similar fields as Form 12S. The receiving entities would then follow the exact same procedures by using the same exact forms (Form 12S and 67) to disburse the form to lower government entities and localities, which in turn use Form 12S to deliver Form 15 to the revenue collectors.
Once in receipt of the Form 15 booklets, the revenue collection agencies must record any dues received for services rendered, with a copy of the transaction given to the payee. All of the transactions must then additionally be recorded in Financial Deposit Form 67, and all dues collected must be deposited in the department’s bank account or safe. Form 15, Form 67 and deposits vouchers are reviewed and approved by an internal auditor, who is further supervised by the relevant department’s financial manager, who retains final sign-off of the submitted documents. Once signed off, the booklets are archived at the relevant government department for an annual audit at the end of the financial year.
Corrupting Situations and Form 15 Usages
The rules, regulations and procedures enacted to protect and safeguard Form 15 against tampering through the years have largely failed to reach this objective. Corrupt officials have been able to influence the process of revenue collection by deliberately undermining the rules and regulations that govern Form 15’s function.
This is best illustrated by the 1995 case of Suba Toll Station. The investigation of that case revealed that each time a truck passed through the toll from Khartoum to Port Sudan, the toll collector, in agreement with field team personnel and the financial manager of the toll company, inserts a cardboard or a piece of cartoon paper between sheets of form 15 to prevent the creation of a copy of the Form. Unaware, the truck driver would continue on, while the toll collector would then complete the carbon copy by tracing written information from another Form 15, usually that of a small car for which the driver paid a lesser toll fee. This scheme allowed the toll collector and others to pocket the difference between the toll actually paid by the truck driver and that which was fraudulently recorded.
These types of situations can be hard to uncover, especially when executed by the officials responsible for upholding the rules and regulations. The Suba case was only discovered by chance when a truck driver who had misplaced three original copies of Form 15 he had obtained at the station—needed as proof of toll payment for his company’s records—returned to find that no records of his truck’s passing could be found at the Soba Toll Office. The driver took the case to the Ministry of Roads and Bridges and presented an original copy of Form 15 for another truck, owned by the same company that crossed the toll station at the same time and day. When no records for either truck were found in the database of the Ministry’s accounting department, Ministry officials inquired further. Ministry accountants found the discrepancy when they crosschecked the information on the original copies of Form 15 with their corresponding entries in Form 67, which turned out to be entries for a small car travelling a short distance. Further investigation revealed that this scheme had carried on for years. The toll collector and his collaborators were eventually indicted in front of a judge and sentenced to prison.
Other types of schemes have involved the stealing and/or selling of Form 15 booklets by officials who maintain custody of these documents. These officials report these booklets as lost or stolen to the police, while actually using them to collect unlawful revenues for personal benefit. Such a scheme was uncovered at an unofficial tax station that was collecting fees on cereal products on the road between Kosti and El-Obeid. Investigations revealed that a number of Form 15 booklets that had been reported stolen from an office in nearby Aljabaleen locality were those being used to collect these unlawful revenues.
Another example is the case of a former revenue collection official from AlSobagh locality in the State of AlGadarif. The official and his accomplices posed as an official revenue collection team and collected animal taxes and fees from herders at AlSobagh area, issuing Form 15 to payees. The scheme was uncovered when official revenue collection teams arrived in the area and attempted to collect due and other fees from the herders. The herders furiously protested the double taxation and presented Form 15 receipts as proof of their payments. After thorough investigation, it was revealed that the Form booklets used by the phony team were stolen from the Education Department of Khashem AlGirba.In court, though, the perpetrators categorically denied the accusation.
Further schemes involve collusion between collectors and their immediate superiors to hold and delay the depositing of collected revenue. In keeping the funds, those involved can use them in trading and other forms of illicit transactions. This practice mainly flourishes in remote areas, where funds are kept for long periods of time before they are reported. In some areas, officials wait for booklets to be fully used before going to the relevant government department to deposit the funds they have collected and replenish their stock of booklets.
In such a case, a highway traffic police officer responsible for collecting traffic fines in Al Gazera deliberately delayed the reporting and depositing of funds collected. Instead the money was used for trading cars and real estate schemes, the profits of which were divided between the police officer and his conspirators. This scam was uncovered during a regular audit of the department, and those involved, who had suffered major losses through their gambling, were not able to return the stolen money in time. All were eventually found guilty, and sentenced to prison, with their assets auctioned off to recoup the stolen funds.
Finally, another type of scheme is the collection of taxes and fees by government officials without the use of Form 15. The funds collected through this scheme are concealed from the MoF, in direct violation of the rules and regulations that govern the collection of government revenues. This practice is widely known as Tajneeb. The overreaching objectives for this type of corruption are to provide off-the-books resources for government agencies to spend on items not included in approved budgets; to avoid restrictions on expenditures imposed by the MoF; and to justify requests for additional federal funding, based on what appears to be insufficient local revenue.
Tajneeb funds are often used in extravagant expenditures such as staff incentives, public festivities, including for the ruling National Congress Party, and unnecessary travel for officials and their families. As these funds are not reported as revenue in the national budget, they are not subject to financial regulations. The former Minister of Finance, Abdel Raheem Hamdi estimated that, in 2012, the Tajneeb amounted to 5 - 7 billion Sudanese Pounds, while the estimated amount of expenditure saved by lifting fuel subsidies in the same year was 1.3 billion Sudanese Pounds. It is worth noting that the lifting of fuel subsidies in 2013 sparked antigovernment riots that led to the deaths of hundreds of young men and women. Yet, had the MoF been able to address corruption such as the Tajneeb, there would have been no need for the lifting of fuel subsidies.
The Tajneeb received wide media coverage and was referenced in the Auditor General’s Annual Report as one of the major obstacles for securing and allocating appropriate resources for the purposes of developing the country. A high-level committee, chaired by the then First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, was even established to combat the Tajneeb. Unfortunately, Taha himself soon undermined the committee and its purpose when he stated that “Tajneeb funds do not go to government official’s pockets, rather they are used in running government activities which fall outside the budget”. This statement encouraged agencies practicing this corrupt activity, including the Ministry of Interior, to continue this practice as well as to defy the Auditor General’s requests to audit their accounts.
All of the schemes above have resulted in negative economic and developmental impacts on the country. As the Minister of Finance, Baderelden Mahmoud announced during a press conference to launch the electronic version of Form 15, the paper version of the form caused losses of 30% of the government’s revenues. Such losses are sure to have had a negative impact on the services provided by the country, such as in education, health, security, especially as Sudan depends largely on funds collected through customs and taxes. After years of such abuse, in a decision that was greatly welcome, the MoF finally decided to cancel the paper version of Form 15, introducing an electronic version on 1st July 2015.
Introducing Electronic Form 15
The new electronic version of Form 15, designed by the MoF, remains largely the same as its paper predecessor. The major difference is that in the electronic version, the form’s serial number, as well as the government agency which receives the funds, are automatically generated. Further, instead of signing the form, the revenue collector enters his/her name and password in the online system in order to be able to access and fill the form. Similarly, the process by which government revenues are collected with the electronic version of Form 15 does not differ much from the previous process. Another major difference is that in cases where the revenue collector makes a mistake when filling in the form and saves it, the system allows him/her to delete it, only after he/she correctly answers a question generated about the mistakes made in the form. The revenue collector must also document this cancellation in electronic Form 67. The same approval system remains, though with internal auditors and financial managers now reviewing transactions online, in portals only they can access.
Since the introduction of the electronic form, the MoF’s IT department has set up collection offices nationwide and appointed collection officials and internal auditors, who receive personalized password given to them in a secure envelope, similar to the process for obtaining the pin number of an ATM card. The MoF’s IT department is the only authority that can generate and cancel these passwords. The department is now evaluating the progress of the new form to date, especially in the movements of the revenue collectors and the auditors.
Economists have identified many positive characteristics of electronic Form 15. It saves time and provides efficiency in revenue collection procedures. Furthermore, it has reduced the Tajneeb practice. Similarly, the electronic form also facilitates the establishment of a single channel that allows the MoF to access, review and monitor all government revenue collected in the country. Further, the Minister of Finance has stated that the electronic version of Form 15 is insured against fraud even when a computer has been illegally accessed through a valid user name and password, as all forms carry an encrypted and unique serial number.
In anticipation of abuse from officials, the MoF has implemented additional financial and administrative regulations, including the daily deposit of collected funds. Government agencies can no longer collect revenue without the use of electronic Form 15, and they must adhere to strict security guidelines regarding the handling of the form. Further, the Internal Auditor and the General Auditor now conduct surprise checks on government agencies to monitor their work, especially in relation to Form 15.
Unsurprisingly, these regulations were met with fierce resistance, not only by corrupt revenue collectors, but also by government agencies. The Minister of Finance himself, at the press conference introducing the electronic version, said “the abusers and those who are personally benefiting from the paper version are fighting this transition and are trying to sabotage its implementation”. This fierce resistance was clearly displayed on 1 July 2015, the first day of the rollout. The internet network crashed and the electronic collection was halted. As a result, health institutions offered free medical services; traffic police failed to collect fines and highway companies allowed travelling vehicles to transit without paying toll fees. Observers believe that this was due to some circles pushing for the premature introduction of the electronic form, before the finalization of technical and logistical arrangements and the training of staff, thereby sabotaging the electronic rollout and forcing the re-introduction of the paper version.
Despite the many advantages of the new electronic form, concerns remain. First, it does not provide a solution for the delay in depositing collected funds, during which those funds can be used for personal gain. Second, bearing in mind that all electronic programs are vulnerable to hacking, it is not clear how well the new system is protected. Further, according to the economist Mohammed Elnayer, another problem in its implementation is the technical capacity of revenue collectors, who are not adequately trained. He added that “some of them [revenue collectors] are unable to answer security questions related to the protection of the operating system (e.g. how to detect if someone has accessed their portal)”.
Among the major shortcomings of the use of From 15 is the weakness of the internet network in Sudan. Not only does it take a long time to load and save the form online, sometimes the whole system crashes and the collection process is halted, or invalidated. During these times, staff members can get confused as customers become ever more frustrated.
Nevertheless, the use of electronic Form 15 for revenue collection provides a powerful antidote for resisting the corruption engendered by the use of the paper version. Time will tell whether this proves effective in the long-term but, for now, it signals a step in the right direction for a country that continues to be held back by rampant corruption.
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Sudan Braces for Sanctions as Economy LimpsICC Trial Chamber I joins the cases concerning Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé GoudéSix new judges sworn in today at the seat of the International Criminal CourtChina calls on the warring parties in South Sudan to reach a settlementWorld Bank is to address Sudan’s problems in the areas of developmentInternational court: Sudan has failed to cooperate in al-Bashir casePre-Trial Chamber II informs the United Nations Security Council about Sudan’s non-cooperation in tThe Secretary-General Remarks at the opening session of the Commission on the Status of WomenOn International Women’s Day, ICC reaffirms commitment to end sexual and gender-based crimesUS condemns lack of "political leadership" to resolve South Sudan's warSudan’s President participates in the Egypt Economic Development Conference Ongwen case: Confirmation of charges hearing postponed to 21 January 2016 Six newly elected ICC judges to be sworn in on 10 March 2015South Sudan:76 organizations call for publication of AU Inquiry Report as deadline for peace passeLubanga case: ICC Appeals Chamber amends the Trial Chamber’s order for reparations to victimsStatement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the South Sudan Peace ProceChina sees no "logic" behind US-drafted resolution on South Sudan Sudanese tribesmen request reconciliation mechanismSudan’s president stresses the opposition’s inability to block the electionsFatou Bensouda, following the Appeals Chamber decision upholding the acquittal in the Ngudjolo ChuiNgudjolo Chui case: ICC Appeals Chamber confirms the acquittal decisionSudanese leader says being hounded by ICC, WestFatou Bensouda, at a press conference in Uganda: justice will ultimately be dispensed for LRA crimeFreedoms severely curtailed in Sudan in 2014: AmnestyI’m ready to “leave” if the people decided that through elections: Sudan’s president Sudan's Bashir says will quit in 2020 if re-elected presidentLiberation of Kuhliyat garrison 5 km west Kadugli cityBashir: Iranian centers closed to protect SudanStatement of the ICC Prosecutor at a press conference in the Central African RepublicSudan election is 'propaganda', says rebel leaderChina announces that it will continue to support South Sudan peace processThree die in militia attacks in South and North DarfurSudan and Kuwait negotiate help Zain repatriate $280 million worth of Sudanese poundsDarfur displaced invite US Deputy Secretary of State to visit their campsSudan election campaign to start amid opposition boycottBoko Haram on agenda of IGAD Inter -Parliamentary Union in Khartoum Sudan activists to take action against Tabit mass rapeDarfur rebels kill soldiers in central Jebel MarraDarfur authority stresses that improvement of U.S-Sudanese relations will bring peaceCentral Darfur's displaced without shelter after fire Sudan’s president addresses the Speakers of Parliaments of IGAD The fighting in Darfur displaced more than 41,000 since late December: UN Brig. Gen. John Mabieh vowed to take Malakal town by 9th March this yearSouth Sudan Rebel Spokesman DefectsU.S. Treasury Allows Personal Communication Exports to SudanSudan security agents confiscate print runs of 14 newspapersFAO teams up with the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rangelands and provides about USD 1 millSouth Sudan Warns Media Not to Publish Rebel InterviewsVideo Report Sheds Light On Fierce Fighting In SudanSudanese journalist disappears under mysterious circumstancesPolitical delegation in Tabit scares residentsIGAD's Inter-Parliamentary Union convenes its meeting in KhartoumSudan investigates rape of girl in Darfur by UNAMID officer: Source Sudan’s opposition welcomes HRW’s confirmation of Darfur mass rapeSudan refers the case of the two political detainees to the courtStatement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, on the InternationSeven Investment Programme Areas Under the Sudanese National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) IdSudan: Mass Rape by Army in Darfur UN, AU Should Press for Protection, International InvestigationFirewood collectors assaulted in Kabkabiya, North DarfurSudan’s president supports the Arab Parliament effortsBoy burns to death in attack on villages in North DarfurSudan and Arab League discuss providing assistance to Darfur MP demands rule of law restored in North DarfurSudan’s Ministry of Culture orders the closure of the Sudanese Writer’s UnionStatement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, ahead of the generLiberation and Justice Movement -LJM apology to people of DarfurAU movements to withdraw Darfur file from (ICC): Sudanese Foreign MinisterAU calls on (ICC) to drop or suspend charges against Sudan’s president and Kenyan Deputy President Sudan's Omar al-Bashir gets Chinese-built presidential palaceSudan authorities working on arrest warrants against El Mahdi and MinawiSudanese popular initiative to mend relations between Khartoum and WashingtonSudan’s president participates in AU Summit in Addis Ababa Al Bashir’s candidacy humiliation for all Sudanese: Darfur displacedAl Bashir is uniting Sudan with his hate speeches: Umma Party leaderSudan’s ruling party announces its electoral programme Sudan and Kenya confirm that ICC targets Africa leaders Ethiopia supports the collective leave of African States from (ICC): Sudan’s government says Sudan demands apology for Jordan statement on ICC reportKhartoum summons Jordanian Ambassador about Jordan mission statements to UN Sudan calls on (UNSC) to cancel resolution 1593 which referred the Darfur file to ICCICC’s referral of Darfur issue to UN is a means of pressure to arrest those wanted by the court: SuDisplaced urge UN Security Council to act on Darfur caseStatement by the UK Legal Advisor to the UK Mission to the UN to the Security Council Briefing on SICC decision is a “chance” to Sudanese and African community to put an end to the court: Sudan’s PaAl-Bashir says (ICC) is one of the tools aims to humiliate and subjugate Sudanese ICC criticizes UN for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Sudan Call A Political Declaration on the Establishment of a State of Citizenship and DemocracyBemba, Kilolo et al. case: Pre-Trial Chamber II commits five suspects to trialBeja Congress Condemns Rape of Women in DarfurThe Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, attends 7th Colloquium of InterRe: Sudanese Congress Party Leader banned from travelAn important Statement No.14 by Commander Ismail Khamis Jalab The former governor of South KordofanICC holds first sub-regional Seminar of Counsel and the Legal Profession in Dakar, SenegalFatou Bensouda briefs the United Nations Security CouncilSudan's ruling party nominates Al- Bashir to new presidential termAnother brutal war crime committed by khartoum regime in Hieban townExperts consider appearance of Kenyan present before ICC as legal precedentAl Bashir should take Kenyan President as example: Sudan rebelsLetter to President Obama from Sudanese living in Diaspora A demonstration in London on April 28 to condemn terrorism and violence practiced by Sudanese authoSudan leader rigid, ex-media boss uncle saysUS urges parties to conflict in S. Sudan to stop fightingFighting the war in the mountains of Sudanand#138; with a cameraPress Release from U.Sudan Peace and Development Foundation Sudan: UN Body Should Press for Inquiry One Year On, No Justice for Protester DeathsInternational Criminal Court opens its doors to more than 750 visitors on Hague International DayICC Trial Chamber IV issues arrest warrant against Abdallah Banda Abakaer NourainICC to start trial of Banda on FridayHead of Sudanese Alliance puts road-map plan to remove tensionSudan renews rejection to ICC measuresNew Amnesty International report - Nowhere Safe: Civilians Under Attack in South SudanSudan’s 2015 elections: an ominous deja vu؟South Sudan Facing Genocide Risk Amid Personal Power Struggle, U.N. Officials WarnICC urges Ethiopia to arrest President Al-BashirAMNESTY INTERNATIONAL Obituary: Osman HummaidaSolidarity Committee threatens to take” September victims” case to ICCNo justice for Sudan protest killings: Human Rights WatchSudan: No Justice for Protest Killings Release Detainees and Punish Abusive Forces‘Legal technicality’ leads to expulsion of NGO Merlin from SudanHuman rights activists call for cessation of war in SudanSudanese civilians terrorised by capricious militiaEgyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader visits KhartoumSudan aid needs astonishing : British officialSudan Human Rights and Humanitarian Bulletin for the period 01 to 15 March 2014Sudanese Parliamentarian considers non-invitation of President Al-Bashir to attend African-EuropeanSudan accuses EU of seeking to create a rift in African positionAlarm raised over violence in Sudan's DarfurSudan Human Rights and Humanitarian Bulletin for February 2014Mohamed I. Elgadi’s Letter to President ObamaMusa Hilal’s insurgencySPLM Secretary General describes death sentence by Sudanese court against him as politicalSudan police clash with mourners at funeralStatement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, providing an updatStatement by the International Criminal Court on the occasion of International Women’s Daystatement issued by DRDC concerning the ongoing round of ethnic cleansing in DarfurArson, #####ng displace thousands in Sudan's DarfurBooth: The US will continue urging international community to ask Sudan cooperate with ICC NEWS FLASH: DR Congo: Arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir, wanted for genocidePresident of the Assembly calls upon the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to resp A comprehensive peace Khartoum: Hussein SaadPublication of Constitutional Proetction of Human Rights in SudanIssues No. 6 and 7 of the Sudan Human Rights and Humanitarian Bulletin covering the periods 01 to 1Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission suspends the International Committee of the Red Cross’ operatioFighting the war in the mountains of Sudanand#138; with a cameraUS urges parties to conflict in S. Sudan to stop fightingThe Nuer Community of North America Calls upon China, Russia and Iran Massacre of Nuer civilians at The Hands of President Kiir’s Dinka miliSudan Human Rights and Humanitarian Bulletin Issue No 4 01 – 15 DecemStatement by the International Criminal Court on the passing of NelsonNew Report: Crisis situation for women in Sudan3rd Issue of the Sudan Human Rights and Humanitarian Bulletin for the Sudan leader rigid, ex-media boss uncle saysEx-media boss uncle says Sudan leader will never changeSudan feels the heat from fuel protestsUN revels that Sudan's president has canceled his visit to New YorkDarfur People's Association of New York Rally to urge UN, UNSC and theRally to urge UN, UNSC and the United states to stand for Justice for UN: Demand al-Bashir’s surrender to the International Criminal Court ICC urges American administration to arrest Sudan's president, if he vAl Bashir case: ICC Judges invite the US to arrest the suspect and surU.S. is not qualified morally, politically or legally to give any less Letter from African Centre for Justice and Peace StudiesHuman Rights Situation in Sudan: Amnesty International’s joint writtenRenewal and strengthening of the special procedure mandate on the situKenya: Cooperate fully with International Criminal Court trials