ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, which came to power on the slogan of ending corruption, has promoted a tax official to the second highest pay scale in civil service, though charges of corruption have been proved against him in a departmental inquiry.
The case of Sharif Awan symbolises patronage of officers from the top as hundreds of tax officials, facing inquiries on charges of corruption and inefficiency since 2015, are serving at key positions in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
Parliament and then all-powerful principal secretary to prime minister Fawad Hasan Fawad could not do much against these corrupt officers.
Awan is among over 150 allegedly corrupt officers who have been facing inquires under efficiency and disciplinary rules, but are still serving at influential positions.
The FBR on Monday notified Awan’s promotion to Grade-21 after he was cleared by the Centre Selection Board (CSB), headed by the Federal Public Service Commission chairman.His promotion was notified two days before Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered Federal Board of Revenue Chairman Jehanzeb Khan to initiate a crackdown on corrupt officers, who were still serving in the FBR. The FBR chairman himself endorsed the promotion of Awan, along with another officer having bad reputation, to the second highest pay scale during the CSB meeting.
PM Khan on Wednesday chaired a meeting and directed the FBR’s top man to take action against the known corrupt officers of his department, an official who attended the meeting at the PM Office told The Express Tribune.
The FBR had initiated proceedings against Awan in January 2015, according to the FBR documents submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance about one and a half year ago. There were charges of inefficiency, misconduct and corruption against Awan which, according to the FBR’s own statement before the Senate panel, were proved.
These documents stated that Awan misstated and concealed various moveable and immovable assets and expenses in the declaration of assets for the tax year 2014. According to the documents, the “officer grossly understated the cost of acquisition of a house in DHA Phase 6 Karachi in the revised declaration of assets for the year 2014.”
The Senate panel was informed that the FBR had moved a summary for obtaining ex-post facto approval of the prime minister for the authorisation of Revenue Division secretary as the authorised officer. However, a stay has been granted by the Sindh High Court.
According to the rules, an inquiry can only be initiated with the approval of the prime minister, which the FBR had not obtained. This procedural gap provided a room to the FBR to promote Awan to the next grade. The FBR failed to get the stay vacated in the past almost two years and sent Awan’s case for promotion to the CSB, according to sources.
A CSB member told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that the government had promoted some officers who were not recommended by the CSB. Similarly, it also did not promote some other officers to next grades despite recommendations by the CSB, he added.
It appears to be a serious charge, suggesting that minutes of the CSB were changed after the board meeting. In November 2017, the then secretary to the PM had written a letter to the then FBR chairman Tariq Pasha and directed him to take action against all corrupt officers and particularly mentioned the name of Awan along with half a dozen other officers.
When contacted, both FBR spokesman Dr Hamid Ateeq Sarwar and the FBR chairman declined to comment on the reasons behind the promotion of Awan.
But an official close to the FBR chairman said Awan was promoted on technical grounds as due to the stay from the Sindh High Court, no inquiry was pending against him.
The government also promoted another officer of the FBR, who has a tainted reputation, to Grade-21. The officer is serving as commissioner appeals.
Although there was no formal inquiry against him, the Pakistan Tax Bar Association and the FBR’s recently retired member legal Tariq Masood had complained to the FBR chairman about his corrupt practices. During the CSB meeting, a member had raised the issue of whether the board should promote those officers to the next grade who were not facing formal inquiries but had tainted reputation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2019.