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ISLAMABAD: The Integrity and Performance Management Unit (IPMU) of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has initiated disciplinary proceedings against 76 tax officials of the Inland Revenue Service and the Pakistan Customs Service (Grade 16 and Grade 19) on complaints of corruption from July 1st, 2020 onwards, and dismissed 10 tax officials on confirmation of charges against them.

This was stated by Nadeem Hussain Rizvi, spokesperson/member Taxpayers Audit, Hafiz Muhammad Ali Indhar, member HRM and Bakhtiar Muhammed, Member Administration, while briefing the media about integrity management efforts of the FBR at the FBR Headquarters, here on Monday.

Bakhtiar Muhammed, the FBR Member Administration informed that the FBR had sought permission for initiation of inquiry against two senior officials of grade 20 from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Out of 76 cases, inquiry has also been initiated against these officials. When disciplinary proceedings are initiated against tax officials, they are suspended, FBR Member said.

The FBR has also submitted two cases of Grade-20 to the prime minister for approval for initiation of inquiry.

The prime minister is the competent authority to give approval of the inquiry.

Once the FBR gets approval, the tax department would initiate inquiry against these grade-20 officials.

A fact-finding inquiry is also underway against a Grade-21 official, and if the FBR moves to the prime minister for initiation of the disciplinary proceedings, the board would seek approval for the said inquiry.

He said that if they included those three officials (two Grade 20 and one Grade 21) in the list, the total number of cases against whom disciplinary proceedings were being initiated, would stand at 79. The FBR Member Admin said that the FBR's IPMU had become fully functional.

The number of complaints against the IRS officials is more as compared to the Customs officials, and majority of the complaints are related to corruption. The Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, was not happy with the working of the FBR's IPMU, so work was underway to propose changes in the working system with the intent to bring more improvements in it. "We have zero tolerance policy against corruption."

"If someone has committed a genuine mistake it is a different thing, but if there is a deliberate attempt of corruption, then there is zero-tolerance and no excuse would be accepted at all."

"The culprit in our team would be taken to task and would not be spared," he categorically said.

However, the FBR has to follow the government procedure of the Civil Servants Act for taking action against the tax officials.

This may take some time, but significant progress would be visible in this direction.

The FBR member said that the FBR did not receive any red letter from the PM's Complaint Cell, and all 355 complaints received from PM's office were properly disposed of. The FBR Member HRM stated that the FBR received complaints from 3-4 sources including manual complaints through the dak system, online complaints, social media, the FBR call centres, PM Portal, and anonymous complaints were entertained/verified where there was substantive information such as bank accounts' details or properties' particulars.

There are also complaints where the complainant discloses his identity, but in majority of the cases the complainants usually conceal their identity.

The complaints are entreated at the higher level i.e. member level and results would be more visible.

He said that the FBR had received instructions from Dr Hafeez Shaikh to off duty all those officials against whom inquiry had been initiated.

The FBR will follow the directive and off duty all those officials against whom inquiries were initiated.

In 37 past cases, pending inquiries are already underway.

In this regard, the FBR team has started its work and would ensure off duty all such officials in line with the instructions of the advisor.

Bakhtiar Muhammed stated that the FBR had chosen 18 honest officials who had been assigned the job of inquiry all over the country.

"I am confident that the chosen 18 officials would do justice with their inquiries," he said. The FBR has directed the inquiry officers to complete their job within the prescribed period of 90 days.

The 90 days is the limit for completion of inquiry, which has to be followed by the inquiry officials. To a query on conflict of interest, the FBR Member Admin said that the FBR Member Operations of IR and Customs are responsible to take work from their respective field formations.

There is absolutely no conflict of interest, while taking disciplinary action against the tax officials working in the field formations.

The FBR Member Admins is not dealing with the operations matters, but transfers and postings with the help of HRM database.

To another query against officers who provided rewards in Karachi and Quetta, the FBR's Member Administration said that there was no legal violation made through providing of multiple rewards to officers.

Now, he said that the FBR was bringing changes in reward rules in order to make this process more transparent.

To a query, he stated that the new Tax Directory was expected to be published in September 2020.

When asked about the outcome of inquiry against the former Member Customs (FBR) Jawwad Awais Agha, he stated that nothing was proved against the said official and no action was taken against him.

When asked about action against a former FBR chairman, who changed the jurisdiction of registered companies, the FBR members categorically stated that those were mere allegations. There is nothing illegal to change the jurisdiction of a class of persons.

The change of jurisdiction is always done on the basis of solid reasoning.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020