Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has taken notice of the suspicious appointment of officers at key positions with “embarrassingly compromised reputations” in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The FBR Chairperson, Tariq Pasha, has been directed to submit a detailed report about the recent appointments. The letter, which was written by the PM, focused on the officers heading field formations and strategic units of the FBR and asked the Chairperson to submit an integrity report on these members.
FBR Chairperson is to submit the report, by 28th November, on officers who have previously faced inquiries due to ethical or any other reasons. This action may lead to the cleansing that is required to make FBR corruption free.
This is not the first time that someone has tried to cleanse the FBR. In 2015, the former chairperson FBR, Tariq Bajwa, started a similar campaign, however, his efforts bore no fruit due to his transfer in the same year.
Final authority of appointment of members to high ranks lies with the chairperson of FBR. Current FBR chairperson started his tenure in July 2017. He brought his own team to the headquarters and the field offices.
PM Abbasi promised the nation to broaden the tax base of Pakistan. Numerous meetings have been held by the PM with FBR to increase tax collection in Pakistan. The first step to this is to make the tax related department corruption-free.
Proven Corruption in FBR
“It has been brought to the knowledge of the PM that no action is being taken against a number of officers whose cases on serious charges have been completed since long,” according to a letter written by Fawad Hasan, secretary to the PM.
A source mentioned that “Fawad has taken a strong position against growing malpractices in the FBR and during a November 2 meeting, suggested to set up a board to decide the fate of tainted officers.”
Dr. Miftah Ismail said in the same meeting that 99% audit cases in FBR are settled with questionable and suspicious means.
The PM’s letter has asked for the details on three names of BPS grade 20 Basharat Ahmad Qureshi, Sharif Ahmad Awan and Shahar Bano Walajahi.
“The PM has been further informed that certain officers of the FBR with embarrassingly compromised reputations and general conduct are leading some of the most important establishments of the FBR,” according to the letter.
An official inquiry had been established to investigate that the said officer gave illegal tax benefits to the Pak-Arab Fertilizer Limited and the Fatima Fertilizer Limited.
The officer under investigation was Basharat Qureshi, who was involved in giving illegal tax benefits to the fertilizer companies. Still, after inquiry report found him guilty of illegal activities, no action was taken against him. He was later posted as Commissioner RTO-III Karachi.
Corruption charges have been proven against the other two names mentioned in the PM’s letter as well. The inquiry team of FBR had proven that Sharif Awan ‘held assets beyond means’ in their report. Still, after the charges of illegal activities were proven against Sharif, he was appointed as Commissioner Appeals in RTO Karachi.
Shahar Bano Walajahi was a part of tax evasion of Rs. 429.8 million. She deleted official records which allowed a taxpayer to evade tax payments.
The premier asked for the detailed findings of the FBR inquiries into the three officers.
Pakistan suffers a loss of Rs. 3.2 trillion due to the negligence of administration and tax evasion according to the World Bank’s report.
Prime Minister has also asked for all the official records of cases belonging to Pakistan Customs Services, Inland Revenue Services and other departments of FBR for officers who were involved in corruption, issuance of falsified documents, helping tax evaders, misuse of power and authority, and illegal activities from June 2013 onwards.
He has particularly asked about directorate general of the Post Clearance Audit, Customs, directorate general of Transit Trade, Directorate General of both the Intelligence and Investigation of Inland Revenue and Customs wings. He has also asked the details of all the past performances of each officer of the FBR.
As the corruption and misconduct charges were proven against these officers so why weren’t they removed from their respective positions and why wasn’t legal action taken against them, asked the PM.
“To make it worse, these officers have been assigned lucrative posts,” according to the letter.
The PM’s Office has sought details about Abdul Hamid Anjum who is in grade-19. The details have also been sought about three grade-18 officers — Sajid Hussain Arain, Abdul Hamid Abro and Jawahar Ali Shah, and Anser Majeed who is an audit officer.
This action by the PM Abbasi is taking a step towards making the tax-collecting department corruption free. The most worrying thing is that after the charges of corruption and misconduct were proven against the three officers of BPS-20, why wasn’t there any legal action taken against them. Who was responsible for putting these corrupt individuals in high power and authority positions where they benefitted from lucrative deals which only benefitted them.
Is law not applicable to the elite in the bureaucratic circle? Strict action should be taken against these individuals so that their punishment might serve as a warning for those who might try to do illegal activities in the future. Pakistan’s economy is getting stronger due to CPEC but the role of tax collection is as important in boosting the economy.