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Reining in corruption within: FBR indecisive on policing powers

Reining in corruption within: FBR indecisive on policing powers

ISLAMABAD: The highest decision-making body of the Federal Board of Revenue, the Board-in-Council, remained indecisive to come up with a clear-cut approach and strategy to rein in the corrupt practices within the organization and decide as to who will police its officers.

The FBR’s Board-in-Council met amid lack of internal mechanism to check the taxpayers and officials’ collusion for tax evasion.

However, the Board-in-Council failed to decide whether or not to task the Human Resources Management (HRM) Wing with vigilance by taking away powers from the Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation.

It is to be noted the HRM itself has sought the powers which the FBR called necessary a step for “integrity management” of its workforce. However, due to the HRM’s capacity constraints and lack of experience in handling such issues, the Board-in-Council remained reluctant to take a decision in this regard.

The board also constituted a four-member committee with the objective to evolve a consensus on the issue, said FBR spokesman Shahid Hussain Asad. He said that the committee would comprise of FBR Member Information Technology Raana Ahmed, Member Audit Haroon Khan Tareen, Member HRM Yasmin Masud and Member Inland Revenue Policy Shahid Asad.

On the other hand, any further delay in the process could undermine the government’s efforts to prepare and implement a tax administration plan. Under the $6.7 billion loan programme, Pakistan has assured the IMF that it is framing a comprehensive plan to strengthen tax administration.

The government has also promised that it will amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2010 to include tax crimes in the schedule of offences that will enable the use of AML tools to combat tax fraud. The deadline for the amendment is June 2014.

In the wake of absence of a foolproof mechanism and apparent “immunity” the tax evaders enjoy, the FBR is being dubbed one of the most corrupt organisations in the country.

On the other hand, as an incentive to lure officers away from corrupt practices, civil servants working in the FBR are offered a salary double than what government servants are getting. However, this has not stopped the officers and the staff from indulging in corruption.

So far, the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation has been informally monitoring the officers. During routine work, if the wing comes to know about involvement of the officers in corruption, it sends the information to the FBR headquarters for action.

In the absence of any formal internal controls, many officers even did not file their income tax returns. Some are enjoying a lavish lifestyle and children of some of the senior officials are studying abroad.

FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa was in favour of integrating the functions of career planning and integrity management.