ISLAMABAD: As the Prime Minister’s Office sits on a report of corrupt taxmen for the last one-and-a-half month, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has sought a list of the ‘worst performing’ mid-career officers from field formations to stop their performance allowances.
The FBR headquarters (HQ) has demanded the list from all chief commissioners of Inland Revenue, some of whom are themselves facing integrity questions. The FBR’s employees are entitled to double salary but due to the government’s decision to freeze their allowance at a certain level a few years ago, their effective salaries are now below 150%. The salaries were increased to stop the officers from indulging in corrupt practices.
“All the chief commissioners are requested to submit the names of their worst performing officers and staffs for stoppage of the performance allowance,” according to a memorandum that the FBR headquarters sent to its field formations this week.
The FBR has sought the names of only one commissioner, two additional commissioners, three assistant commissioners, three auditors and three inspectors of Inland Revenue Service from each regional and large taxpayer unit.
There are 18 regional taxpayers units and four large taxpayers units situated across the country.
This means only 264 people will be subject to severe action out of a workforce of over 16,000. As per the FBR’s direction only one commissioner’s allowance will be stopped, irrespective of the number of worst-performing commissioners in each region and large taxpayer unit of the country.
Corruption and inefficiency remain the two main reasons behind poor performance of the FBR, although the tax authorities take credit for registering over 17% annual growth rate in revenue collection. But a World Bank study says that over Rs3.2 trillion revenues are lost every year due to tax loopholes and systemic inefficiencies.
There are about 200 officers of the FBR facing inquiries on allegations of corruption and misconduct. These officers have not been shown the door despite completion of inquiries against them.
In November last year, the Prime Minister’s Office had taken notice and in a strongly-worded letter directed FBR Chairman Tariq Pasha to submit a detailed report about the ‘integrity’ of all FBR members, officers heading field formations and strategic units of the FBR.
“It has been brought to the knowledge of the PM that no action is being taken against a number of officers in whose cases formal inquiries on equally serious charges have been completed since long,” according to a letter written by Fawad Hasan Fawad, secretary to the PM in November.
The FBR has submitted the report to the PM’s Office, but no action has been taken yet.
There is strong resentment in the FBR’s field formations against the letter to stop the performance allowance, said sources in the FBR. They said that the field formations have threatened to go on strike against the move.
The field formations officers were of the view that the HQ’s act will negatively affect the performance and resolve of field formations in meeting budgetary targets. Such steps should be stopped forthwith to avoid discontentment amongst field formations, they stated.
This would also allow chief commissioners to find scapegoats to hide their own inefficiencies, according to an official of the FBR.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2018.