Amid lack of internal controls necessary to keep a check on taxmen who are often seen conniving with tax evaders, the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) highest decision-making body could not decide on who will police its officers.
A meeting of the FBR’s Board-in-Council, held here on Friday, failed to decide whether the vigilance task be given to the Human Resources Management (HRM) wing by taking away powers from the Directorate General of Intelligence and Investigation.
The HRM itself sought the powers which the FBR called necessary steps for “integrity management” of its workforce. However, due to the HRM’s capacity constraints and lack of experience in handling such issues, the Board-in-Council could not make a decision, according to FBR officials.
It constituted a four-member committee that would decide whether the task should be given to the HRM, said Shahid Hussain Asad, the FBR’s spokesman. The committee will comprise Member Information Technology Raana Ahmed, Member Audit Haroon Khan Tareen, Member HRM Yasmin Masud and Member Inland Revenue Policy Shahid Asad.
Any delay could undermine the government’s efforts to prepare and implement a tax administration plan. Under the $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme, Pakistan has assured the IMF that it is framing a comprehensive plan to strengthen tax administration.
The government has also promised that it will amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2010 to include tax crimes in the schedule of offences that will enable the use of AML tools to combat tax fraud. The deadline for the amendment is June 2014.
The FBR is dubbed as one of the most corrupt organisations in the country. Because of rampant corruption, tax evaders remain untouchable. There were no formal internal controls in place to keep a close eye on the corrupt officials, sources in the FBR revealed.
As an incentive to lure the officers away from corrupt practices, civil servants working in the FBR are offered a salary double than what government servants are getting. However, this has not stopped the officers and the staff from indulging in corruption.
So far, the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation has been informally monitoring the officers. During routine work, if the wing comes to know about involvement of the officers in corruption, it sends the information to the FBR headquarters for action.
In the absence of any formal internal controls, many officers even did not file their income tax returns, sources said. Some are enjoying a lavish lifestyle and children of some of the senior officials are studying abroad.
FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa was in favour of integrating the functions of career planning and integrity management, officials said. They feared that if vigilance powers were given to the HRM, it could undermine the whole exercise, as the HRM staff not only lacked training in spying but also could be easily pressurised.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.