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ECP bars caretaker PM from allowing FBR revamp plan

Under the plan approved by cabinet, Federal Tax Policy Board will be constituted in Revenue Division
In this file photo, Pakistani policemen stand in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan office in Islamabad. AFP
In this file photo, Pakistani policemen stand in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan office in Islamabad. AFP
A pedestrian leaves the entrance of the headquarters of the Federal Board of Revenues in Islamabad on November 14, 2012. AFP
A pedestrian leaves the entrance of the headquarters of the Federal Board of Revenues in Islamabad on November 14, 2012. AFP

The country’s top electoral authority barred on Tuesday the caretaker prime minister from allowing the overhauling of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), moments after the federal cabinet took the decision.

The Election Commission took notice of the cabinet’s decision to approve the FBR revamp plan, saying that “it is the Constitutional duty of the ECP to monitor the actions of the caretaker government beyond its prescribed responsibilities.

In a letter to interim Prime Minister’s Secretary Khurram Agha, the electoral watchdog said that the jurisdiction of the caretaker government was clearly stated in the Constitution and the Election Act.

The coalition government, which ruled the country for 16 months after the ouster of ex-PM Imran Khan, amended the Election Act to allow the interim set-up to take major policy decisions regarding multilateral and bilateral projects.

Under Section 230 of the Election Act, the ECP said that the interim setup can perform the day-to-day affairs of the government.

“The restructuring of FBR and reforms are big policy decisions,” it said and advised the caretaker prime minister to leave such important policy measures for the next government.

The electoral watchdog also asked the interim PM to avoid taking reforms on a big scale in the FBR.

Cabinet approves FBR revamp plan

Earlier in the day, the federal cabinet approved the restructuring and digitisation of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on the recommendations of the Revenue Division.

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar gave a nod to the overhauling of the country’s tax-collecting authority while presiding over the cabinet meeting.

Officials informed the cabinet members about the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee that held its meeting on January 23 under the caretaker finance minister. In its previous meeting, effective amendments were made in the summary after a discussion which was submitted in the cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday, the PM Office Media Wing said in a press release.

Under the reforms, a Federal Tax Policy Board would be constituted in the Revenue Division that would be tasked to formulate tax policy, fixation of revenue targets and work for coordination among the stakeholders. The federal minister for finance would head the Federal Policy Board.

Moreover, Customs and Inland Revenue departments would be separated and work under specific director generals in the relevant cadres who would also enjoy complete authority over the administrative, financial and operational matters.

Both the officials would ensure digitisation of their relevant departments and implementation of globally recognised practices for transparency and addressing complaints.

Such departments would have separate oversight boards with the federal secretaries of ministries from finance, revenue, trade, chairman of NADRA and relevant experts as its members whereas, the minister for finance would head them.

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Clash of interests should be avoided during the appointment of experts from the private sector, caretaker PM Kakar said and added that under the cabinet committee’s recommendations for reforms, a draft should be presented for necessary legislation and approval in the upcoming session of the newly elected parliament.

The cabinet also endorsed decisions taken on January 26 by its Cabinet Committee on Legal Affairs but deferred amendments recommended by the Ministry of Water Resources about IRSA Act 1992 and directed the ministry to resubmit it in the next meeting of the cabinet after a thorough debate.

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ECP

FBR

federal cabinet

Election act amendment

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