‘Ghost’ BTS towers in capital

IMC DMA director tells local govt commission about tax irregularities


Iftikhar Chaudhry May 07, 2020
A telecommunications tower. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The beleaguered Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) plummeted further into trouble as its director confessed to having 360 Base Transceiver Station (BTS) towers that just exist in papers, not physically.

The Local Government Commission (LGC) – formed under the federal interior ministry to oversee operations of the elected IMC – summoned all IMC DMA directors that had remained on the position during the time when tax irregularities have been reported by the inquiry panel.

The LGC meeting convened by its Chairman Ali Nawaz Awan was held at Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) office in Sector G-11 on Wednesday. It was attended by other commission members, Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz, DMA Director Zafar Iqbal, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials, Capital Development Authority (CDA) member planning and other related officials.

The commission had summoned the DMA and FIA officials on the inquiry report by a two-member sub-committee which had probed alleged irregularities in recovering tax from cellular companies for their BTS towers installed across the federal capital and the tax on advertisement boards in the city. The tax is supposed to be collected by the IMC DMA.

The FIA officials informed the commission that the agency was already probing into multi-billion rupees irregularities in the Tri-Vision case. However, they asserted that the DMA officials were not cooperating with the agency in the investigations. They added that the corporation had failed to provide them any tax collection records as well.

At this, the chairman commission reprimanded the DMA Director Zafar Iqbal and said that the directorate was ridiculing itself by frequently changing its statements regarding the tax recovery records. Pointing out the DMA director, Awan added, “Sometimes you state that the record is lost and sometimes that the FIA has it.” The chairman said that even an ex-DMA official was accused of stealing tax recovery records.

Meanwhile, DMA Director Iqbal informed the committee members that as many as 360 BTS towers were ‘ghost’ towers. He added that the towers did not exist anywhere across the federal capital.

According to sources, Awan asked Iqbal to leave the meeting room for misleading the commission, concealing facts and violating the decorum of the meeting.

Islamabad mayor intervened and said that the inquiry report had highlighted irregularities that happened during a period when IMC had not even come into existence.

Therefore, Mayor Aziz suggested summoning all directors of DMA who had served on the posts during the period when the corruption in the tax recoveries has been identified by the inquiry committee. At this, the commission chairman summoned all DMA directors that had served during the given duration. Once the inquiry is completed, the report would be sent to the ministry of interior, he added.

The commission has also decided to forward the reports on other issues that were brought before it including the establishment of a waste dumping site and IMC rules of business to the federal government.

Ali Bukhari, a member of the commission, said that Rs58 million have been recovered so far after the sub-committee proceedings against tax irregularities.

Awan said that Hashim Khan left DMA without handing over the record. Has any legal action been taken against him. CDA Director Land Shafiullah Marwat said that Hashim Khan is being made a scapegoat. The then DMA director should also be included in the inquiry.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2020.

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