Discusses Rs20b worth of irregularities in FBR, puts off decision due to figure mismatch
ISLAMABAD: In a visible atmosphere of mistrust, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday ordered the initiation of inquiries into the presentation of unverified figures pertaining to financial irregularities in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and misuse of confiscated vehicles by taxmen.
PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Shah told the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to investigate and hold the officials accountable for coming up with unauthenticated figures in the PAC meeting. He asked the AGP to take the auditors to task, if they were responsible for the unprofessional work.
In case the FBR had committed the mistake, PAC would take the matter to parliament and recommend it to take action against the erring officials, Shah added.
“It is highly unfair that figures of different departments do not match each other,” he remarked.
The PAC meeting had been called to discuss roughly Rs20 billion worth of irregularities and taxmen’s failure to collect due taxes during 2009 and 2010. The committee put off decisions in most of the cases due to the mismatch between the FBR and AGP figures.
Except for the FBR, it had never happened that any department challenged the figures presented by the auditors after meetings of the Departmental Accounts Committee, said Irfan Jehangir Wattoo, Director General of Customs and Petroleum at the AGP office.
PAC also directed customs authorities to immediately deposit the confiscated foreign currency with the central bank after the auditors highlighted cases where the taxmen had not deposited foreign currency valuing Rs5.1 million.
PAC members urged FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa to handle model Ayan Ali’s currency smuggling case in a transparent manner. “The nation is disappointed over the manner the FBR handled the case,” said Arif Alvi of the PTI.
Bajwa said $510,000, which was recovered from Ali, was deposited with the central bank.
Misuse of vehicles
PAC was unhappy with the misuse of confiscated vehicles. There were almost half a dozen audit objections that highlighted the misuse of vehicles and their auction at less-than-prescribed rates. In a case, the FBR auctioned Toyota Surf Hilux for Rs687,375.
However, the FBR chairman was reluctant to admit that his department was involved in the misuse of confiscated vehicles. Officials used only those vehicles that could not be auctioned due to tampered registration and chassis numbers, he clarified.
“FBR officials illegally use confiscated vehicles and everybody knows this,” commented AGP Rana Assad Amin.
Responding to the arguments, PAC ordered the FBR to hold an inquiry to find out who misused the vehicles. It also sought details of the auctioned cars.
“The vehicles cannot be smuggled into Pakistan without cooperation of the customs authorities,” said Junaid Anwar Chaudhry of the PML-N.
PAC members questioned the FBR for the lack of action against its officials, who caused a loss of billions of rupees in taxes.
There were also other instances where action was not taken against the officials. In a case pertaining to the recovery of Rs833.8 million from a rice exporter, who shipped the commodity on fake forms, no action was taken against the officials who permitted the shipment.
FBR’s Member Customs Nisar Mohammad said the State Bank of Pakistan and the FBR would sign an agreement next week, which would give the latter online access to Form E, which ensures that the exporter bring backs the export proceeds. PAC also sought details of the court case, which dates back to 2009.
Questions were also raised over the performance of auditors who first highlighted tax recoveries of Rs2.4 billion and then agreed to waive these by placing them under the “not due” category.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2015.
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