ISLAMABAD: The federal government may reverse its decision to appoint Tariq Bajwa as the Revenue Division secretary in the wake of a strike staged by the 20,000-strong Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) workforce to protest what they say is discrimination against the Inland Revenue Service.
Finance and Revenue Minister Ishaq Dar was considering reversing the decision of Bajwa’s appointment, said sources in the Ministry of Finance.
Bajwa has been assigned additional responsibility of the Revenue Division in addition to being the Finance Division secretary.
“The confidence of revenue officers has been shaken and the FBR simply cannot run like this,” said an important member of the FBR management. The FBR headquarters sees the move as a conspiracy to divide the workforce based on personal likes and dislikes, particularly at a time when the board is coming in for criticism for not expanding the tax base.
FBR officers and staff staged a strike on Friday across the country against the additional charge given to the finance secretary.
The strike was not against Bajwa but it was held to protest against the government that denied the Inland Revenue Service the Grade-22 post by appointing an officer from the Pakistan Administrative Service.
The strike disturbed normal business at Regional Tax Offices, Corporate Tax Offices and Large Taxpayer Units. Officers held protest gatherings in Lahore, Karachi, Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Rawalpindi.
The government notified Bajwa as the Revenue Division secretary just a couple of hours before the meeting of a high-powered board. The purpose was to facilitate the promotion of two blue-eyed boys of the Inland Revenue Service to the highest Grade-22, said the sources.
The government promoted Tariq Pasha, Special Assistant to Finance Minister, to Grade-22. Raana Ahmad was also promoted to the highest pay scale, said the sources.
The promotion of these two officers came at the expense of Tanveer Khawaja, who has again been ignored despite his strong professional credentials.
Khawaja is currently serving as Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation, Inland Revenue Service of the FBR.
The government did not give the charge of Revenue Division secretary to Dr Mohammad Irshad, who was recently given the “look-after” charge of the FBR chairman. A permanent FBR chairman has not been hired since the retirement of Nisar Muhammad Khan.
It is rare that the slots of Revenue Division secretary and FBR chairman are assigned to two different persons. Usually, the FBR chief is the Revenue Division secretary.
These developments take place at a time when the FBR is facing a huge shortfall in its tax revenues.
It provisionally collected Rs1.690 trillion during July-January of the current fiscal year, missing the target by roughly Rs140 billion.
The government has set the annual target at Rs3.621 trillion, which is 16% higher than the collection made in the previous fiscal year.
However, the FBR has declared the goal unrealistic, arguing that the finance minister set the level without taking the tax authorities on board.
The FBR also blames the government for the shortfall in tax revenues, saying it is the result of policy changes and has nothing to do with operational matters of the revenue board. This was communicated to Dar a couple of months ago, said the sources.
The FBR, which itself has failed to broaden the tax base, was of the view that its revenues were going down due to the change in sales tax regime for fertiliser, petroleum and export-oriented sectors.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2017.
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