MABAD - Failing to launch even a consolidated training programme, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has misused the World Bank funds for Tax Administration Reform Project (TARP) by sending its handpicked officers on irrelevant foreign trips, sources informed TheNation on Monday.
According to the sources, millions of dollars were spent on the foreign tours of the FBR officers without any audit and no proper procedure was followed. The sources informed that FBR had sent those officials on foreign tours who had nothing to do with tax administration.
The World Bank has sponsored the TARP worth $ 149 million and one of the top reforms of the project is to establish Inland Revenue Service (IRS) by merging three major taxes i.e. sales tax, excise duty and income tax into one occupational group. However, the tax authorities did not take its own officers into confidence on IRS, as there are lot of reservations inside the FBR and the officers of Custom Group have shown their concerns and challenged it in the court.
The World Bank has provided the fund to raise the tax to GDP ratio from existing nine percent to 15 percent and also to bring tax reforms, however sources revealed that FBR spent the funds only on the foreign trips instead of taking any concrete steps for increasing tax base.
The sources disclosed that World Bank had already showed concerns over the TARP in Pakistan. It is important to mention here that World Bank the other day asked the government to issue the ordinances through presidential ordinances.
There were certain objectives to achieve the agenda of TARP, as training was one of these objectives, however the current training system is not geared to address the existing training needs of FBR. There is no articulation between the initial degree and certificate-granting institutions for basic professional training and subsequent training received over a career to upgrade skills and competencies. Moreover, over three-quarters of the staff, below grade-16, receive very limited training of any kind.
Over 100 short-term training courses, seminars and workshops in different countries have recently been funded under TARP. These countries include USA, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Dubai.
The tax authorities had sent its officials to London on a seminar on United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic crisis and its Impact on Development which was held on 23-26 June 2009, and this conference had no connection with the tax reforms, the sources added.
There are so many irrelevant tours on which FBR had sent its officers to the other countries and these are: Seminar on Planning and Project Management organised on 4-16 October, 2009 in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. FBR would send its officials on irrelevant tours to attend the seminar on Leadership for the 21st century on 6-12 February 2010 in USA. There is list of said irrelevant tours of the FBR officers to the other countries under the fund of TARP with TheNation, which clearly showed that these trips have no relation with the tax reforms.
The prime objective of the TARP is to raise tax revenue through improved compliance with tax laws and broadening of the tax base; improving effectiveness, responsiveness and efficiency of tax administration through institutional and procedural reforms; improving collection through transparent and high quality tax services; and strengthening audit and enforcement procedures.