PM stops FBR from wasting Rs1.6b on luxury vehicles

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday barred the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) from the purchase of 155 luxury vehicles as the World Bank too was baffled by the move to buy 13 dozen vehicles at a cost of Rs1

6 billion

After a story appeared in The Express Tribune, the Prime Minister’s Office sprang into action and immediately stopped FBR chairman from pressing ahead with the plan

A senior official told The Express Tribune that the PM on Thursday directed that the FBR should not present papers in a pre-Central Development Working Party (CDWP) meeting to get approval for the purchase of luxury vehicles

The Ministry of Planning had called the pre-CDWP meeting on Thursday to discuss the overall investment project financing (IPF) component, worth Rs19

6 billion, under the World Bank’s $400 million Pakistan Raises Revenue project

It is for the second time in the past 10 days when the PM or the finance minister has intervened in the FBR’s matters to stop the management from committing any irregularity

Earlier, the finance minister had barred the FBR from misusing taxpayers’ money for personal benefits of its executives

After the PM’s intervention, the Ministry of Planning cancelled the pre-CDWP huddle

The premier will now decide the matter in consultation with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar

Shehbaz Sharif has also sought a report from the FBR chairman about the proposal to buy vehicles in violation of his instructions to ensure austerity due to a high risk of default

It seems the World Bank was also not aware of the FBR’s move

A World Bank spokesperson told The Express Tribune that the World Bank had “discussed with FBR the possibility of financing a pilot of up to 25 Mobile Field Office vans as part of this effort (to enhance tax compliance), subject to expert assessment of a rigorous business case and the development of a full monitoring and evaluation framework”

The spokesperson said that the World Bank was supporting the FBR with a range of innovative measures to enhance tax compliance

The plan submitted to the Ministry of Planning was silent on the nature of vehicles and also no business case was submitted to justify the purchase of 155 vehicles

The estimated cost of Rs1

63 billion for the purchase of vehicles is equal to 8

6% of the funds that the FBR had secured for upgrading its obsolete hardware and software, showed official documents

It wanted to procure vehicles of 1,500cc to 3,000cc – the engine capacities that the FBR itself described as ‘luxury’ and were subject to heavy taxes

It has not explained the make of the vehicles in the documents

Sources said it was an outdated concept to chase taxpayers by going to their doorsteps and instead the FBR should improve its services

With 120 million smartphones in Pakistan, a comprehensive application can give all these services at finger tips, according to senior government officials

The original concept of the World Bank-funded project was to create a digital FBR

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2023

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Date:18-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link