FBR’s Member Admin holds the system together and keeps it going

ISLAMABAD: The key role of the Administration Wing of FBR is overall administration of the Board, its attached departments and field formations, including transfers and postings, appraisals, processing and monitoring of all development projects. The entire budget of FBR is also managed and supervised by the wing.

This was stated by Shahid Hussain Jatoi, Member Administration in Federal Board of Revenue in an exclusive interview with Customs Today recently. He said that like any other organization FBR has an effective Administration Wing which is performing its duties with great responsibility. He said that the Administration Wing has launched another effective system namely HRIS, the first of its kind by any organization in Pakistan. Complete data and record of all the officers and their performance is stored and maintained through this system. This method provides all the required information of each officer with a single click.

He said that Admin Wing remains watchful to ensure that transfers and postings are decided on merit and sees that no ambiguity is left in this regard. Admin Wing makes transfers and postings up to 19 grade officers and the rest are made by the Central Selection Board. Answering a question he said it is true that the wing has to face pressures from different circles, including politicians, regarding transfers and postings but under the supervision of Tariq Bajwa, Chairman FBR, all the work is carried out absolutely on merit. Under the new set-up, the Administration wing is working in a congenial atmosphere and exercising its free will in the selection of officers at important places.

Replying to a question, he said that infrastructure maintenance of FBR buildings, on rent or owned, is also a basic function of our department.” We deal with maintenance and construction of buildings, offices and even residences of officers.”

Similarly, other assignments like holding training sessions for officers, supervising their promotions, helping in career planning, managing their leaves, taking disciplinary actions against them and above all hiring and firing of officers are all in the line of duty of the Administration wing

In addition, the department also deals with seniority cases, qualification issues, performance and evaluation reports and overall professional reputation. In other words, career profile mechanism is the responsibility of the department.

Replying to another question, Mr Jatoi said that if complaints against FBR officers are anonymous and of general nature and allegations do not contain any evidence, then there would hardly any justification for taking action. However, complaints with specific details and evidences are first verified through various means and then a preliminary report is prepared to initiate disciplinary action against the officers.

Apart from Admin Wing, he said other wings in FBR and government agencies simultaneously deal with the investigation of complaints about corruption and corrupt practices.

He added that the culture of filing genuine complaints does not exist in our country due to various reasons like fear of retribution, lack of trust and faith in the system and lack of knowledge of the legal rights of traders under various laws.

He said that there is a proper mechanism established for complaints which is simple and quick in nature. “If we find any complaint in writing and there is nobody to own the complaint, we cannot work on it. We can only act upon specific details and material evidence. Once we find out any evidence, we initiate proceedings in this regard.” At present some complaints and fact finding inquiries are pending and there are other cases in which charge sheets have been prepared and issued.

 

 

 

 

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Clearing agents: bridge between Customs officials and traders

LAHORE: It is very difficult for the Customs Department to clear import or export consignments worth Rs 65 billion without the active help of clearing agents. Their task is not only significant and important but they, in fact, are playing pivotal role after becoming a bridge between Customs officials and traders. Their role is like a lawyer who becomes mediator between a judge and a complainant. Customs clearing agents also hold licences which are issued by the competent authority.

These views were expressed by Lahore Customs Clearing Agents Association President Agha Iftikhar while giving an exclusive interview to Customs Today at his Mughalpura Dry Port office.

Agha Iftikhar further said that in the current fiscal year, Pakistan’s exports are estimated to be around $25 billion while its imports have been surpassed the mark of $41 billion. The total volume of imports and exports has reached $66 billion and Customs clearing agents are playing the role of catalyst in generating revenue in the shape of Customs duties. With over 1,200 licences, Customs clearing agents across the country are not only meeting the Customs Department’s revenue collection targets every year but they are also satisfying importers and exporters in preparing documents of their consignments and properly handling their cargos.

Replying to a question, Agha Iftikhar dispelled the perception that Customs clearing agents are allegedly involved in wrong-doings. He clarified that only Customs clearing agents have made it possible for Customs Department to collect targeted revenue, otherwise it is impossible that Customs Department could raise such a hefty amount of over Rs220 million in the current fiscal year. He further said that Customs clearing agents are not working against the interest of the state rather they are helping all agencies concerned including Customs Department and other stakeholders like importers and exporters. Without the active help of Customs clearing agents, Agha Iftikhar claimed, neither the government can collect tax on imports nor can traders import items worth above $40 billion annually. He admitted that there are some black sheep among clearing agents also. This negligible ratio of black sheep is found in every department, he added.

Agha Iftikhar further elaborated that imports and exports are a very sensitive issue. Sometimes people with vested interests try to export banned items like drugs. So Customs clearing agents collect complete information about their respective clients. If a clearing agent does not know the office, house and godowns of his importer client, how is it possible for him to locate his client at the time of investigation of exporting contraband items? Besides this, a clearing agent has to satisfy government officials so that a handsome amount in the shape of Customs duty on imports could be collected and deposited in national kitty.

Replying to another question, Agha Iftikhar said that though all clearing agents are not highly literate persons but still they feel good when they are offered refresher courses or asked to participate in a seminar or conference for their capacity building. He further said that he has also attended a number of conferences not only within Pakistan but also abroad. For example, he said that he has just visited Sweden to attend a seminar which helped him to improve his knowledge regarding Customs issues, he added.

Agha Iftikhar blatantly revealed that bureaucracy is the main hurdle to clearance of import consignments. He claimed that under a plan, Railways’ goods trains have been suspended to help the road transportation. Railways charge only Rs 50,000 per container from Karachi to Lahore while road transporters charge over Rs 150,000 for carrying same bonded container from Karachi to Lahore. Now, importers’ first priority is to clear their cargo containers at Karachi ports rather than from Lahore dry ports just to save their precious time as well as money. He said that government should help Railways management to run goods trains between Lahore and Karachi. In this way, not only the undue burden on Customs officials at Karachi ports would be reduced but the cost for importers would also be cut.

 

 

 

 

MCC Preventive strengthening enforcement system: Chief Collector Yahya

KARACHI: Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Tariq Bajwa and Member Customs Nisar Muhammad Khan have issued clear instructions for strengthening the enforcement system of Model Customs Collectorate (MCC) Preventive.

This was stated by Chief Collector (Enforcement) Muhammad Yahya during an exclusive interview with Customs Today at his office.

The Chief Collector (Enforcement) admitted that MCC Preventive was facing lack of manpower and modern equipment. However; the situation would be improved very soon in the department.

“Despite all odds at MCC Preventive, the collectorate is utilising its available resources in best way”, the Chief Collector added.

To a query, Chief Collector (Enforcement) Muhammad Yahya said that fulfilling all the requirements including capacity building and training will ultimately improve the performance of MCC Preventive.

He further informed that non-availability of suitable men in place of outgoing veterans and experienced officials is another dilemma, which affects the performance of MCC Preventive.

Replying to a question, Muhammad Yahya said that Pakistan Maritime Security Agency is one of the best agencies of the country and Customs has no reservations in order to conduct joint raids against smugglers in deep sea.

Answering another question, Chief Collector Muhammad Yahya denied any missing link between Customs officials and informers, who leak out the information against smugglers.

“We have a well-coordinated system of exchanging information between Customs officials and informers, adding that MCC Preventive strives hard to foil smuggling bids”, he added.

He further said that high officials in FBR and Pakistan Customs are determined to make MCC (Preventive) Enforcement more effective in order to combat rising smuggling bids and trafficking.

Karachi Customs Agents Alliance to win elections with thumping majority: Saifullah Khan

KARACHI: President Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) Saifullah Khan said that his panel would definitely win the upcoming elections of the association with “thumping majority”.

In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Khan said that Karachi Customs Agents Alliance was winning the elections for four consecutive years since KCAA got freed from clutches of ‘mafia’ in 2008.

President KCAA said that the current office-bearers of the association have worked for the betterment of clearing agents during their tenure.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with clearing agents in difficult times and will continue to resolve their issues related to clearance of goods”, he added.

Commenting on Customs Department, Saifullah Khan said that it is one of the best departments of the government, generating huge revenue for national exchequer.

He further said that high-ups of Customs Department are optimistic and willing to uphold morale of other Customs officials, adding that KCAA will extend full support to them in this regard.

“Rule of law should prevail at Customs Department and best officials be deputed in Audit, Post Clearance Audit (PCA) and Risk Management Cell (RMC)”, Khan added.

To a query, President KCAA said that training sessions of Customs officials below 17-grade including Appraisers and Principal Appraisers should be conducted on regular basis, adding that they should also be trained through workshops and seminars.

Responding to another question, Khan said that Customs Department should improve its working according to Customs Act 1969 and implement the said Act in letter and spirit.

Answering to a question, President KCAA said that the present top brass of Customs Department is committed to improve the performance of the department and increase the revenue generation.

Commenting on the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam, Khan said that Pakistan Customs should conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry in the light of the verdict given by Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP).

“According to the Public Orders 16/2000 and 5/2003, clearing agents are not answerable after handing over the goods to national carriers”, he added.

Replying to a question, President KCAA said that the authorities concerned in Customs should utilize all their resources in order to run WeBoc in effective manner, as clearing agents are still facing difficulties to file Goods Declarations (GDs) through this particular system and the prevailing situation compels them to file GDs manually.

Saifullah Khan further said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Pakistan Customs should take into confidence the agents association and trade bodies before implementing or introducing any new system.

President KCAA Saifullah Khan reiterated that Customs should take revolutionary steps in order to achieve the revenue target. In this regard, he suggested that all the related departments of Customs should cooperate with each other to increase the revenue generation.

Khan hoped that the Karachi Customs Agents Alliance will continue struggle for safeguarding the rights of clearing/forwarding agents after coming into power again.

Message of KCAA President Saifullah Khan regarding CUSTOMS TODAY:

Customs Today is a unique and first English newspaper of its own kind, having good printing quality and following policy of constructive criticism of any individual or department through a very professional way, said Saifullah Khan, President KCAA.

DOT producing trained customs force: Mehboob Saqib Khan

LAHORE: Directorate General of Training & Research (Customs) Lahore is relatively an unglamorous wing of the Customs Department but those who know about the working of this organization say that the DOT Customs is the heart and soul of the whole Department and provides it with the kind of trained manpower which produces results. This is the directorate which provides training to Customs officers who ultimately act as the guardian of the economic boarders of Pakistan. Directorate General of Training & Research Customs administers three training centres at Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to impart training and develop training policy for personnel of Customs Department. The organization has developed over the decades since Independence in 1947.

In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Mehboob Saqib Khan, former Director General answered many questions and traced the history of the Directorate:

In 1973 through Administrative Reforms the Federal Services Academy became Civil Services Academy and Directorate of Inspection and Training was established at Karachi and an independent Directorate of Training was established in 1981 at Karachi and in 2000 at Lahore. The Directorate was established at Islamabad in 1997. After transfer of the Post of Director General from Islamabad to Karachi in 2005 this Directorate is working as Regional Directorate of Training & Research (Customs)”.

What are major functions of Directorate of Training & Research (Customs)?

This Directorate is providing training to the officers/officials of the Customs Department who are working in different directorates including Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation (FBR), Lahore, Directorate of Internal Audit (Customs), Lahore, Directorate of Post Clearance Audit, Lahore, Model Customs Collectorate (Appraisement), Lahore, Model Customs Collectorate (Preventive), Lahore, Model Customs Collectorate, Multan, Model Customs Collectorate, Faisalabad, and Model Customs Collectorate, Sialkot. Major functions of the Directorate include induction and post promotion training to all tiers, refresher courses for all grades, conducting test of applicants for getting New Customs Agent Licenses, 6-Day Mandatory Course for all customs agents, Computer Based Training (CBT) in collaboration with UNODC, information technology courses and international customs/taxation courses.

What is the basic goal of the training provided by the Directorate?

Well, the purpose of the Directorate is to achieve excellence in the field of taxation and economic management in South Asia and evolve into a premier regional organization, which will produce future economic mangers and leaders. The Directorate is meant to develop a Customs Academy with international links and affiliations, to serve the Customs training needs of the region as a centre of excellence in Customs Administration.

Similarly, the Directorate is supposed to develop the Academy with state-of-the-art technologies, as a future-driven training centre having its own Campus, Faculty as well as Charter to award degrees and establish training units in the Customs Collectorates/Regional Tax Offices to provide on-the-site training besides serving as a forum for professional development and resource centre for tax collectors as well as taxpayers.

What innovations have you introduced after taking over the Directorate’s reins?

It gives me immense pleasure to launch the website of the Directorate General of Training and Research of Pakistan Customs. It is a humble effort but the first step towards introducing this office to the general public and business community in particular. I hope this shows the capabilities of this office. In the past, we have held training courses for officers from Brunei and Palestine but unfortunately, due to the socio-political situation, we are not currently conducting any courses for foreigners. It is my endeavour to ask the business community and stakeholders as well as officials of the Department to come forth with suggestions and criticism for the improvement of the Directorate through this website.

It is my perception that we should train officers who can prove to be assets to the Department by solving problems of the business community, who take decisions and are not hostile to the public instead they take the business community and the clientele as their friends. If we succeed in doing this, I will be the happiest man on Earth.

In the end, I would like to thank and mention all officers of the Directorate for their input, particularly Dr. Muhammad Afzal, Additional Director, Lahore, Mr. Agha Jawad, Director, Karachi, Ms. Zahra Haider, Deputy Director, Lahore, Dr. Rizwan Basharat, Deputy Director, Lahore and Mr. Muhammad Asghar Khan, Additional Director, Islamabad.

What methodology do you adopt to train the officials?

Training methodology at the Directorate includes lectures, workshops, seminars, hands-on practice, expert talks, case studies, field trips and on-the-job and group activities consisting discussions and presentations.

What facilities do you extend to the trainees at the Directorate of Training and Research (Customs), Lahore?

The officials who come to get training at the Directorate are provided with the air-conditioned interactive class-rooms, computer lab consisting of 25 computers, multimedia projector, internet/e-mail server and a pool of well-qualified, multilingual and experienced resource persons.

How many trainees have you trained during the last few years?

I took over the charge of Directorate during 2011. However, the total number of participants trained since 2007-2013 are 7620 while the number of courses, workshops, seminars is 494. The courses enabled the Customs officials to understand the value of professionalism, leadership, excellence, perseverance, commitment, innovation and integrity.

 

Profile

Mehboob Saqib Khan who holds a Masters degree in Economics came 6th in the CSS examination and opted for Customs Services. Working as Chief TEPI and In-charge Input-Output Co-efficient Organization (IOCO), he saved Rs 17 billion for Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by rationalising rebate notifications with the consent of traders. He also architected Duty Tax Remission for Export (DTRE) scheme, replaced old communication with optic fiber connectivity in the Customs House, Karachi and established connectivity throughout the country.

He is also one of the primary architects of current format of the goods declaration. He made major contribution in making the Customs Act compatible with requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

As the Collector Valuation Khan reformed the procedure and published three guides for valuation of audit and got reward for detection of evasion of duty and taxes. As the Collector Preventive, he achieved targets and received rewards for detection of a gold case. As the Collector Appraisement, Karachi, he achieved the highest collection ever till that time. He introduced Automated Customs Procedure (ACP) which is operational to date. As Director Intelligence Lahore he obtained 70 kanals of land from Punjab Liquidation Board for the FBR.

He laid the foundation and completed new office of Directorate of Intelligence, Lahore. Similarly as Collector Faisalabad he took possession of 2 acres of prime land from the provincial government and payment for the land had been made 20 years ago. The government sent him in the first batch for Executive Development Programme to Harvard University, USA. He also did a course on Public-Private Partnership from Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), US.

APCAA wants impartial inquiry into ATT scam: Jamal

KARACHI: All Pakistan Customs Agent Association (APCAA) wants transparent inquiry in Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam to reveal the real culprits involved in it.

This was stated by Senior Vice President All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) Arshad Jamal during an exclusive interview with Customs Today at his office recently.

He said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Customs Department and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) held inquiry about 28,000 missing containers in ATT scam. However; National Logistics Carrier (NLC) and Pakistan Railways had already admitted before NAB that they had sent 10,000 and 11,000 containers respectively across the border to Afghanistan and Afghan authorities had acknowledged the same.

Senior Vice President APCAA Arshad Jamal said that Customs Department should launch inquiry against its officials dealing with Afghan cargo.

Jamal further informed that rehearing of ATT scam is to be conducted by Customs officials at the end of this month (August).

He said that role of Customs agents has already been elaborated in public order 16/2000, that they are only responsible for goods before assessment & examination and after that Customs officials, border force and national carriers are responsible to help cross goods to Afghanistan.

“We have held a detailed meeting with Chairman FBR Tariq Bajwa in this regard and informed him about view point of APCAA, and FBR Chairman assured us for conducting impartial inquiry in ATT scam”, he added.

Our panel will emerge successful in annual elections: KCAA Gen Secy

KARACHI: General Secretary of Karachi Customs Agents Association, Yahya Muhammad said with full confidence that their panel would emerge successful in the upcoming annual elections of Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA), to be held on September 26, 2013.

In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Yahya Muhammad said that their panel fully cooperated with the Customs Department and its officials in their tenure.

Commenting on performance of Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT), he said that QICT management is playing very supportive role to facilitate trade bodies and clearing agents. However, Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) and Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) are not facilitating their clients.

Importers, exporters and trade bodies pay extra charges in terms of demurrage and detention charges due to slow process of clearance at terminals.

“QICT is clearing more containers every day as compared to PICT and KICT”, Yahya said.

“According to the Customs Act 203, 1969, Collector Customs may decide storage/wharf age with terminal operators, but violation of the said Act is continued”, he further added.

Highlighting issues of clearing agents, KCAA General Secretary said that authorities concerned have cancelled licenses of several agents without any intimation or show-cause notice, causing great inconvenience for them.

Yahya said that Customs officials must have cordial relation with agents and they should conduct training sessions on regular basis, adding that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) should take onboard the agents associations and trade bodies while implementing or introducing any new strategy.

Yahya appealed to Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to introduce online system at all National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) branches so that importers can deposit their tax returns online from anywhere.

He further said that authorities concerned should decide the fate of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) scam on merit basis.