Track system for cigarette firms feared to face more delay

Published: September 15, 2019
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Deadline for submitting EOIs for installing system likely to be extended. PHOTO: FILE

Deadline for submitting EOIs for installing system likely to be extended. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: A project planned by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for introducing a track and trace system to monitor the cigarette and tobacco sector online is feared to face further delay.

A strong lobby has been formed to stir controversy due to which the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) condition of issuing licence to the project by the end of current month is unlikely to be met.

An IMF delegation is due to visit Pakistan next week. The influential tobacco lobby has managed to get the terms of reference (TORs) of the project changed.

The FBR Board-in-Council approved on Friday the change in TORs for inviting expressions of interest from interested parties and companies. This came following a meeting between FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi and tobacco manufacturers a day ago.

The deadline for submitting the expressions of interest is likely to be extended from September 20.

Sources in the FBR shared that owing to the tobacco lobby, the project had been delayed for the past nine years.

They shared that earlier all arrangements had been made for launching the project and bidding process had also begun but the then finance minister gave directives for transparently completing the entire process from scratch.

He also constituted a committee to determine the reason behind the delay in the project. However, neither the committee made the recommendations nor the cause of delay could be identified.

The tobacco lobby has become united at a time when the project is scheduled to be launched again and all arrangements have been made and expressions of interest invited.

Earlier, key government officials objected to the TORs introduced for awarding the contract for installing the system.

Owing to that, the FBR chairman held consultations with cigarette manufacturers on Thursday in which the companies voiced reservations about the prescribed standards.

A special meeting was called on Friday where approval was granted for amending the standards for qualifying companies and submitting expressions of interest for the track and trace system.

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