PTI govt fails to weed out corrupt FBR officers

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VIAShahbaz Rana
SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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ISLAMABAD.: In its first year in power, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government could not weed out taxmen with tainted reputation and instead has lately started appointing officers at lucrative positions due to their political connections.

Despite all his good intentions, Prime Minister Imran Khan has not been able to terminate services of nearly a dozen Grade 21 officers of the Federal Board of Revenue whose cases are ripe for action, sources in the Establishment Division and FBR told The Express Tribune.

After another fact-finding committee recommended to form yet another committee, the FBR will send another summary to the Establishment Division this week to seek the prime minister’s approval to launch yet another inquiry against them, said the sources.

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In March this year, the FBR had moved a summary to the Establishment Division for seeking formal permission of PM Imran to launch disciplinary proceedings afresh against a dozen senior taxmen on charges of corruption and inefficiency.

Also Read: Tax year 2018: FBR receives 2.1 million income tax returns

The Establishment Division secretary had returned the summary with observations that fresh inquiries may be launched against them as the earlier inquiries had been conducted four years ago, according to the sources.

To satisfy the Establishment Division secretary, the FBR had set up a three-member fact-finding committee, they added.

The committee comprised Mian Saeed Iqbal – a Grade 22 officer of the FBR, Zahid Khokhar and Zulfiqar Khan –both Grade 21 officers.

The sources told The Express Tribune that the fact-finding committee recommended the FBR to set up an inquiry committee to probe charges of corruption and inefficiency against these officers, but the committee just wasted time.

In light of the fact-finding committee, the FBR would send another summary this week to the Establishment Division with a request to grant approval to conduct formal inquiry under Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules of 1973 in these cases, which was earlier stayed by the courts.

FBR to decide on declaration of assets

These officers have been accused of giving bogus sales tax refunds, providing undue tax benefits and owning assets beyond known sources of income.

The volume of alleged losses ranges from Rs14 million to a whopping Rs92 billion.

It seems that the bureaucracy in the FBR and the Establishment Division was protecting these people from action.

The FBR’s own documents that it submitted in the courts and the Senate Standing Committee on Finance proved the allegations of corruption and inefficiency against these officers.

Prime Minister Imran has time and again promised to take the corrupt people to task but so far his campaign is focused only against his political opponents.

Initially, the list included 11 officers of grades 21 and 20 that with the passage of time has now shrunk to only four officers. At least three people have already retired from service.

Another three were not referred to the fact-finding committee by the FBR.

‘Tax machinery incapable of prosecuting fraud cases’

One officer objected to the constitution of the fact-finding committee.

Over 150 allegedly corrupt officers have been facing inquires under efficiency and disciplinary rules for the past four years, but not even one of the officers has been taken to task. These officers belong to the Inland Revenue Service and Customs Group.

The matter of these officers was in the past taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Fawad Hasan Fawad, the then principal secretary to the then prime minister. But these bureaucrats appeared so powerful that not even PM Imran could do anything against them despite launching a crusade against corruption.

The FBR had already conducted inquiries against these officers but did not seek prior permission of the premier a few years ago — the procedural lacuna that these officers exploited to get stay orders from courts.

(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on July 30th, 2019)

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