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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance has strongly proposed legislation to scrutinize the assets of officials of the Inland Revenue Service and Pakistan Customs Service through an institutional framework.

The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue was held here at the Parliament House on Wednesday with Senator Saleem Mandviwalla in the chair.

During the meeting, the Ministry of Finance supported the proposal of the committee with the observation that it is the domain of the Establishment Division to frame rules in this regard.

Declaration of assets & liabilities: FBR sets deadline

Furthermore, the senate body deliberated on the starred question related to the status of assets declared by officers of Inland Revenue and Customs at the time of appointment and their current status.

Senator Saifullah Sarwar Khan Nyazee inquired about the mechanism to monitor the assets of Inland officers. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman apprised that officers failing to declare their assets would not be eligible for performance allowance and promotion. However, there is currently no specific mechanism in place to verify the assets of inland and customs officers, he added.

The FBR Chairman, Amjed Zubair Tiwana, said that it is important to disclose assets at the time of appointment and promotion in the FBR.

The committee postponed consideration of the State Bank Amendment Bill 2023.

The committee recommended that the FBR should develop a comprehensive mechanism to determine the assets of its officials.

On the issue raised by Senator Saifullah that the FBR officers should declare assets at the time of appointment, the FBR chairman said that it is being said that people of FBR have Benami assets, if FBR finds that there are Benami assets, the FBR would take action.

He said that there are 25,000 employees in the FBR and it is not an easy task to check the assets of each employee.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha said that if the FBR is unable to check the assets of 25,000 employees, how it can check the assets of 25 crore (250 million) people. Agha said that a chairman had acknowledged corruption in the FBR at this very committee in the past.

Special Secretary Finance Owais Samra stated that the government does not have a mechanism to check the assets of the officers. He added that due to the absence of a mechanism by the government, some people face problems in promotion. He said that many officials face difficulty in promotion because allegations are levelled against them.

Senator Sherry Rehman stated that the Establishment Division should make an institutional framework through legislation to check and probe assets of the government employees.

Senator Sadia Abbasi said that if the assets of parliamentarians are disclosed, the officers should also disclose their assets. The committee demanded that the changes in the rules with regard to declaring of assets should be presented to the cabinet.

The members of the committee stated that the assets of all officers must be brought before the public after the approval of the federal government.

The Senate committee was briefed on consistent fluctuations in dollar price.

DrInayat Hussain, deputy governor SBP, pointed out that rising demand of dollars among the masses and import uplift are the primary drivers in dollar fluctuations.

The chairman committee was of the opinion that the SBP should take precautionary measures to ensure dollar stability and discourage masses from unnecessary dollar purchases.

Additionally, he highlighted the matter of LCs opening to import EV cars and maintained that the government should prioritize the import of EV cars over the average fuel cars as it will contribute mostly to averting the climate crisis. The chairman of the committee stated that LCs of electric vehicles should be given priority. He said that they have been receiving complaints that there are difficulties in importing electric vehicles.

The SBP deputy governor stated that all restrictions on imports have been removed. The chairman of the committee inquired as to why the dollar is fluctuating is it because of a shortage of dollars. The SBP official said that the demand for dollars is very high as imports have increased following the removal of restrictions.

Are banks currently allowed to buy dollars from the open market, questioned Kamil Ali Agha.

The SBP official said that there is no such permission and banks are not allowed to do this.

While deliberating on the tax evasion of housing societies, the FBR chairman stated that “Faisal Town” has paid approximately Rs1 billion in tax on its profit; however, the other major players of the housing sector have not filed tax returns, leading to legal disputes in those cases.

The FBR chairman said that the housing societies do not show their actual profits and declare losses. The FBR has issued notices to the housing societies for recovery of taxes, but it has been stayed by the courts.

In addition to that, the committee was briefed on the present status of EXIM Bank. DrInayat Hussain, deputy governor SBP, said that the Board Members of EXIM Bank have been notified, however, the bank will become operational on the clearance of FPT forms and documentation of nominated Board Members. The committee directed the SBP to expedite the clearance of FPT forms within the upcoming two weeks.

Moreover, as to the claims of refund by M/S Kolachee (Pvt) Ltd, the FBR chairman apprised that all the relevant queries have been addressed.

The meeting was attended by senators, Sherry Rehman, SaadiaAbbasi, Kamil Ali Agha, Dilawar Khan, Faisal Saleem Rehman, and SaifullahSarwar Khan Nyazee, Special Secretary Finance Division Awais Manzur Sumra, Chairman FBR Malik Amjed Zubair Tiwana, Deputy Governor State Bank DrInayat Hussain, and other senior officers of relevant departments were also in attendance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Builder Aug 24, 2023 02:19pm
"... if the FBR is unable to check the assets of 25,000 employees, how it can check the assets of 25 crore (250 million) people" The point here is why should FBR check assets of 250 million people? Asset declaration should be for government officials who have opportunities of corruption. And yes, FBR and customs are THE MOST corrupt of all government departments and they are wholly responsible for current fiscal mess. Had they been honest, we would have double the tax revenues since long. FBR chairman knows this all and probably beneficiary of this corrupt system, therefore opposing scrutiny of FBR.
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