At the helm: Giving in to pressure, government appoints FBR chairman

Published: February 14, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday finally notified Dr Muhammad Irshad as new chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and secretary of the Revenue Division – the man known as a doer and belongs to the civil service cadre that is hired for a specialised task.

However, Irshad’s appointment came only after the Inland Revenue Service went on a strike against government’s earlier decision to hire an officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service as the Revenue Division secretary.

“Dr Irshad is transferred and posted as Chairman FBR and Secretary Revenue Division with immediate effect and until further orders,” said a notification of the Establishment Division.

Irshad is a grade-22 officer – the highest pay scale in the civil service. He belongs to the Inland Revenue Service – the specialised cadre that is hired for revenue collection.

Before his elevation, Irshad was serving as member of Inland Revenue Operations responsible for 90% of tax collection.

Earlier, the government did not give the slot of Revenue Division secretary to Irshad, who had been assigned only the “look-after” charge of FBR chairman. The posts of FBR chairman and Revenue Division secretary had fallen vacant after the retirement of Nisar Muhammad Khan last month.

The federal government had been considering for the last two days reversing the decision of appointing Tariq Bajwa as the Revenue Division secretary. Bajwa had been assigned responsibility of the Revenue Division in addition to being the Finance Division secretary.

The government notified Bajwa as the Revenue Division secretary just a couple of hours before the meeting of a high-powered board. Its purpose was to facilitate the promotion of two officers of the Inland Revenue Service to the highest grade-22, said sources.

However, they said, the FBR’s top hierarchy conveyed its reservations to the Finance and Revenue Minister Ishaq Dar about the appointment of the Pakistan Administrative Service officer as the Revenue Division secretary. After that, Dar decided to reverse the appointment. Irshad’s hiring is expected to boost morale of the Inland Revenue Service, particularly at a time when it is facing challenges to enhance revenue collection. He is known as a doer in his cadre with capabilities to mobilise the service.

However, the FBR is facing serious challenges to the current fiscal year’s tax collection target of Rs3.621 trillion, which is 16% higher than the collection made in the previous fiscal year. So far, the growth has been only 7%, which the FBR blames on changes in tax policies.

After Irshad’s appointment as the FBR chairman, the post of member Inland Revenue Operations has fallen vacant.

According to sources, there is a possibility that Irshad may appoint Rehmatullah Wazir as new member operations. Wazir is currently serving as member Inland Revenue Policy.

He is known as an out-of-box thinker but had been marginalised in the past. Most of his budget proposals during budget-making last year were rejected purely on personal grounds.

If Wazir is appointed as new member operations, Tanveer Khawaja could be posted as new member of Inland Revenue Policy, said the sources. Khawaja is currently serving as director general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation, Inland Revenues.

He has been thrice denied promotion to grade-22 allegedly due to personal liking and disliking. He has policy and operational experience of both inland revenues and customs.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2017.

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