Running free: Most Sindh government vehicles still plying unregistered

Hundreds of vehicles running with fake number plates despite tax adjustment


Sohail Khattak August 16, 2014

KARACHI:


The Sindh government has failed to register a majority of its vehicles with the provincial excise and taxation department despite tax adjustment, The Express Tribune has learnt.


An anonymous official from the Sindh excise and taxation department told The Express Tribune that a major chunk of government vehicles have been running without registration, standardised number plates, or payment of annual motor vehicle taxes. "No one knows how many vehicles the Sindh government owns because of these unregistered vehicles," the official said. "There may be 40,000 or more." The official added that the government lacked mechanisms to keep track of its vehicles.



When the issue was picked up by the NGO Citizens Trust Against Crime (CTAC), the relevant government departments held meetings with the NGO's representatives, leading to the decision to use book adjustment to resolve the problem of funds. Under the book adjustment plan, the funds required to register the vehicles were to be transferred and adjusted within government files.

The chief secretary of Sindh gave all government departments time till June 30 to register their vehicles and adjust their books. The police department, which was the main defaulter, took advantage of this to register 5,090 vehicles with the excise department, including 1,412 two-wheelers. The remaining departments registered only 206 vehicles, including five two-wheelers. A total of 5,396 vehicles were registered and Rs 480,240,415 were adjusted. Vehicles which had been plying illegally on the roads for a decade were also registered during the three-month process.

"There are still hundreds of unregistered government vehicles running with fake number plates, although the exact number is unknown," the official said. He explained the departments' lethargy by saying that they would have to pay regular taxes if they registered their vehicles. Furthermore, with the clarification of vehicle ownership, government officials using these vehicles illegally would lose them.

While private vehicles can be identified through the excise department's online verification system, data for government vehicles has not been provided due to security concerns.

When asked about the issue, the department's director-general, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, wrote to the home department and the Sindh IG for their consent to share the data. "We will provide the data for government vehicles when we receive permission, but we did not have it in our old verification system," he said, admitting that it should be available on the website along with the data for private vehicles.

According to Siddiqui, 90 per cent of government vehicles have been registered. Following the book adjustment, vehicles bought in the future would have to be registered as per routine, with the finance department releasing funds for registration and taxes at the time of purchase. However, CTAC representative Nazim Haji, who is working with the government on this issue, believed that 30 to 35 per cent of government vehicles remain unregistered. "When your own car is not registered, you have no right to ask others to register theirs and pay taxes," said Haji, adding that the bureaucracy, using government cars "unchecked and unquestioned", was directly involved. "If they start paying motor vehicle taxes, they will be exposed," he said.

The chief minister, according to Haji, had given July 31 as the registration deadline, after which the offenders would be punished. However, no action has been initiated yet. "The solution is to order the police to impound vehicles running unregistered," he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th,2014.

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