In an unprecedented move, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) raided the National Testing Services (NTS) headquarters and took over a dozen computers in custody, while briefly detaining its chief operating officer (COO) and three other staff members.
Sources privy to the development confirmed that 10 FBR vehicles showed up at the NTS headquarters situated at Sector I-8, with a notice about taxation.
FBR officials then entered the offices of NTS COO Sherzada Khan and Human Resource Corporate Senior Manager Ahmad Kamal Shamsi, confiscating their laptops. They also confiscated laptops and personal computers from the operations section, panicking the NTS staff.
The officials, who refused to talk to the media, took all the computers with them, despite the COO’s protest. They also took along with them Khan, Shamsi and two other NTS officials who were recording the incident on their phones.
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Sources informed The Express Tribune that Khan and Shamsi argued at the FBR office for a while, protesting at the way the computers were confiscated and the raid was carried out.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the NTS COO refuted the claims of his brief detention, maintaining that he was not at work and only came to the office after he heard about the raid. This claim, however, was rebutted by more than three officials who were present at the time of the raid.
Khan also said that he went to the FBR office by his own free will to discuss the situation. “I asked them why they had taken custody of the computers, as they were not related to taxes,” he said, while clarifying that they had paid about Rs200 million as taxes in 2016 and had always paid them on time. He said he had assured the FBR of his cooperation and was ready for any scrutiny coming his way.
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Recently, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had told Senate that four of the five testing services in the country – the NTS, the Balochistan Testing Service, the Pakistan Testing Service and the Sindh Testing Service – had not paid taxes for the last three years, while the Universal Testing Services had paid Rs873 only in the year 2015.
The raid comes after an announcement from the National Accountability Bureau on Friday pertaining to the launch of an inquiry into the alleged embezzlement and the leak-out of the entry test for medical colleges in Sindh.
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A source in the FBR told The Express Tribune that a rigorous audit of NTS’s financial details had started as several loopholes were pointed out in the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report published in 2015-2016.
The first-ever NTS audit was conducted by the AGP in October 2016. The body has already rejected the audit conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan which had found “glaring financial irregularities and misappropriations” in NTS functions.
The role of the NTS has been a mystery since its inception in 2003 and the body has been keeping all financial details under wraps, to an extent that it was even kept away from the board of directors till 2012.