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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Awarding MFN status to India to enhance Pakistani exports

SYED MOHAMMAD TAHIR

LAHORE: Awarding Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India would not only provide cheap items to end consumers but Pakistan would also get a huge market of 1.27 billion population for exports. Unless government does not take steps to build mega hydel projects like Kalabagh Dam, the country would not progress leaps and bounds.

These views were expressed by former LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh at his office while giving an exclusive interview to Customs Today team recently.

Irfan Qaiser said that there is no need to fear in awarding MFN status to India because ultimately it would be proved beneficial for Pakistan. There are only few sectors including pharmaceutical and automobile which are opposing to award MFN status to India otherwise, the fact is that we would capture a fast progressing economy of the world having over 1.27 billion population after signing preferential agreements.

Irfan Qaiser said that we have a very good experience of trade with China. China has become world’s second largest economy with a population of above 1.4 billion. Though, the balance of trade is in China’s favour, yet reality is that we got a huge market for our exports in the shape of China. It is basically our imperfection that we could not export to China according to our potential. However, it is a good omen that China has promised to help Pakistan in building economic corridor between Gwadar and Kashghar, he said, adding that with the establishment of this economic corridor, China would set up industrial zones in Pakistani territory keeping in mind the local cheap labour.

Irfan Qaiser further said that similarly Pakistanis are consuming expensive Indian items as these are being shipped through Mumbai to Dubai and then from Dubai to Karachi. The transportation expenses of these smuggled items increase up to 40 per cent because of extraordinary distance. If we could award MFN status to India, the end consumers in Pakistan would get these items at the cheapest rates as goods could be transported from New Delhi to Lahore consuming just eight hours, he claimed.

He said that majority of the businessmen in Pakistan do not have fear in their minds while trading with India. He said he is also importing raw material for his chemical factory from India and exporting value-added DOP production to India which is being used in making artificial leather. He claimed that though India has as many as 70 plants producing DOP but Indians are keen to purchase my whole production of DOP. Likewise, other traders are also doing businesses with Indians and are fetching valuable foreign exchange for the country, he added.

While criticising the incumbent government, Irfan Qaisar said that enhancing General Sales Tax (GST) from 16 percent to 17 percent is a bad decision as it has opened a floodgate of inflation in the country. The indirect taxes are being eliminated in the world whilst the ratios of indirect taxes have been increased in our country. While quoting an example, he said that Pakistanis are paying over 70 percent indirect taxes and 30 percent direct taxes while 70 percent direct taxes and 30 percent indirect taxes are imposed in most of the countries in the world, he claimed.

Irfan Qaisar further revealed that last year he had organised OIC ambassadors’ summit at Bhurban where all participating countries pledged to set up a trade secretariat that would help promote trade activities among OIC’s countries that are currently at their lowest ebb of 0.5 percent. He said that after his stepping down from the LCCI as President, the movement’s pace has decreased but still he is optimistic in establishing a mechanism for full-fledged trade among Muslim countries. He further revealed that as many as 28 ambassadors of Muslim world participated in the summit and showed their eagerness in establishing trade secretariat of Muslim countries.

While replying to a question, Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that if we carefully estimate losses incurred by war on terror and energy crisis, the outcome would stun everyone. He said that regional countries are progressing at the rate of 8 to 9 percent of GDP but Pakistan is struggling hard to achieve 4 percent of GPD, he added.

Irfan Qaiser claimed that the calculation further revealed that from last 15 years, Pakistan has lagged behind almost 200 years as compared to regional countries. He said that the successive governments failed to anticipate country’s energy requirements and never tried to set up hydel power plants to generate even a single unit. Vested interested have created unfavourable circumstances among all provinces that they have put aside country’s interests and preferred to have their own interest. They did not ponder to build new mega dams to generate not only electricity but also irrigate barren lands of the country. He was of the view that building mega projects like Kalabagh and Bhasha Dams are inevitable for the rapid progress of the country. If incumbent government, he said, wanted to see country progressing like other regional countries, these mega dams have to be built on war footing, he added. He further said that Pakistan is losing over $4 billion annually because of energy crisis, adding that Pakistan is bearing colossal losses because of war on terror.

Irfan Qaiser suggested the government to build mega hydel power plants along with small and medium run-of-the-river hydel plants to generate cheap and environment-friendly electricity and move the economic wheel of the country smoothly so that Pakistan could be put on track of progress and prosperity soon, he concluded.