ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance took up the case of allegedly corrupt officers of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) after a break of six months but went to a state of disbelief due to the lack of progress on the cases.
In February this year, the standing committee had given a three-month deadline in consultation with the FBR to conclude inquiries in at least ten big alleged corruption cases.
We could not conclude all the cases and need a minimum of three more months to finalise them, Federal Board of Revenue administration member Tasneem Rehman told the standing committee. Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Senator Farooq H Naek chaired the committee meeting.
The PTI government appointed Jahanzeb Khan as the new chairman of FBR on Tuesday, after it could not find an officer within the FBR headquarters to lead the tax machinery. Jahanzeb belongs to the District Management Group.
“The committee showed its displeasure for not completing inquiries within the three-month period,” said Senator Farooq Naek. He, nonetheless, gave another three-month deadline to complete these inquiries amid skepticism over FBR’s ability to move against its own officers.
About 180 FBR officers were facing inquiries as of November 2015 under the efficiency and disciplinary rules of 1973. Their cases remain pending due to the alleged support they receive from within the FBR. In most cases, the charges of corruption and inefficiency against these officials have been proven. Some of them have obtained stay orders.
The Senate has been trying for over one year to take these people to task, but to no avail. Even the Prime Minister’s office pushed these cases in November last year, but subsequently stopped pursuing them.
In February, the special panel of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance also directed FBR to reopen all the cases, where officers were exonerated or given minor punishments by the FBR’s top management, despite establishing illegalities committed by them.
As a test case, the committee asked the FBR to conclude 10 big cases within three months. In the February meeting, FBR’s former administration member Shahid Jatoi and Tanveer Malik, currently serving as director general of broadening the tax base in FBR, had stated that these were “hardened criminals in the FBR”.
The special panel had also sent some of the cases to the National Accountability Bureau, including that of Asif Rasool, Sajid Hussain Arain and Abdul Hameed Abro. Rasool has been accused of illegally accepting irreconcilable bank credits worth Rs92 billion of Fatima Enterprises, Multan, which were allegedly concealed sales proceeds of the company for the tax years 2008 to 2011. One of the most glaring corruption cases was that of Arain, whom Malik described as a hardened criminal and a disgrace to the civil service of Pakistan. Arain issued bogus tax refunds and was part of a gang, said Malik at the time. The committee had also decided to send the case of Abro to NAB who also allegedly issued bogus refunds.
The FBR has exonerated Asim Siddiqui, a grade 19 officer, despite charges of misconduct proven against him. He is the alleged director of two offshore companies.
Senator Mohsin Aziz of the PTI said on Wednesday that during investigations it was felt that there were deliberate attempts on the part of FBR to delay the inquiries.
The FBR should have honoured the commitment that it had given to parliament to conclude inquiries within three months, remarked Senator Musaddiq Malik of the PML-N.
But Tasneem Rehman argued that in certain cases accused officers had taken stay orders from the courts, which restrained the authorities from taking any action.
The chairman committee directed the FBR chairman to appear personally after three months and present the report to the Senate panel.
(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on August 30th, 2018)