KARACHI: The Sindh legislature was on Tuesday informed that the Sindh government was ready to hand the property tax collections to the district governments in a few months after the municipal authorities were duly trained for the required operations.

“As per the chief minister’s orders we are ready to hand it over to the district governments in coming months when the local government’s designated employees are duly trained about the required operations and procedures in collecting the tax,” said Excise and Taxation Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla while responding to the members’ queries in the question hour segment of the day’s session.

He said handing over the collection of the property tax to the district governments would help the municipalities increase their financial viability and become more efficient in developing their respective territories.

A member said the provincial government should have handed it over to the municipal governments during the current fiscal year as was promised by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah during his budget speech.

The minister said his ministry was fully prepared to do the same but the training of the municipal officials needed some time so that they could collect the tax without possible hiccups.

He responded to Kamran Akhtar’s question that the excise authorities collected Rs1.7 billion in Karachi region and Rs81.7m in Hyderabad district during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

To a question asked by Rana Ansar, the minister said it was not a fact that different reasons were being cited for not issuance of number plates to new motorcycles after their registration.

He said the number of plates was being issued to the newly registered motor vehicles. The last contract for that was awarded to M/s Progressive Engineering Associates at Rs330 per pair (inclusive of GST) for four wheelers and Rs120 per single plate (inclusive of GST) for two-wheelers.

Accordingly, he said, the work order was issued for Rs166,000 pairs of four-wheelers and 206,741 single plates for two-wheelers.

Further, the competent authority had approved the procurement of 15 per cent additional registration number plates for four-wheelers (24,900 pairs) and two-wheelers (31,011 single plates) from the same firm on the same rates or terms and conditions.

He said that contract was for the year 2016-17, which had ended; while, award of the new contract was under process.

He said 420 was among the numbers and certain alphabets were not culturally acceptable to customers and the dealers, thus, the ministry usually skip those numbers and alphabets.

He said mechanisms were being chalked out to make sure that motorcycles, sold on installments, were not handed to customers without issuance of registration plates.

Minister Chawla responded to a query asked by Nusrat Sahar Abbasi saying that the Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Ministry did not conduct any road checking campaigns during the months of September and October 2013.

“Such campaigns are conducted by the traffic police who are empowered under Sections 114 and 115 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965 to seize documents and detain vehicles used without valid certificate of the registration respectively,” he said.

Ms Abbasi asked another question seeking details whether a mini raw liquor factory existed at the new water tank in the centre of Mirpur Bathoro town.

She claimed thousands of litres of liquor were being prepared and packed in plastic bags and glass bottles in that factory and the same were being dispatched to various cities and villages on a daily basis.

Minister Chawla said no such mini raw liquor factory existed in Mirpur Bathoro.

However, he added, directives had been issued to the authorities concerned to keep vigilance in the area and take action if such activities were noticed there.

He said the excise police would be busy in taking actions against such establishments round the year.

He said on many occasions the excise authorities would raid places upon receiving information that raw liquor (katchi sharab) was being produced there and kept in pitchers (matka).

“Most of the time, those involved in making of raw liquor would bang matka against the floor and drain the stuff, thus, it is hard to arrest them.”

He said the excise authorities, still, seized 13,311 litres of raw liquor, 12,000 bottles, 289 kuppi and 1,185 litres of pure sprit during the last fiscal year.

Between July and December last year, he added, 28 persons had been arrested on the charges of being involved in the business of raw liquor.

He said apart from pharmaceuticals, sprit was used in many other industries including paints etc.

He said his ministry had the powers to check distilleries, which duly shared the records vis-à-vis import of sprit with the ministry.

Defining the raw liquor, he said the stuff which was produced without legal licence was considered as the raw liquor.

To a question asked by Kamran Akhtar seeking the number of rickshaws and taxis registered in Karachi and Hyderabad during 2015-16, the minister said 21,881 rickshaws and no taxi were registered in Karachi and Rs55.2m were collected.

Besides, 3,849 rickshaws and no taxis were registered in Hyderabad and Rs9.9m were collected.

To another similar question, the house was told five cars and two buses were registered in Sukkur during 2015-16; while, no such vehicles were registered in Khairpur during the same period.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018

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