ISLAMABAD: Clouds of uncertainty gathered over the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as talk continued to swirl in the capital whether its chairman Javed Ghani would be replaced in a few days or get a three-month extension to cover the upcoming budget 2021-22.
Mr Ghani, who is the fourth chairman of the FBR appointed in the tenure of the PTI-led government, will reach superannuation on April 10. He was posted as a regular chairman on Dec 29, 2020 after having the additional charge of the slot for five months.
Background interviews with top government officials show that the proposal to let the incumbent chairman finish the current financial year’s budget is under consideration. At the same time, others are looking for a new face to head the administration.
“There will be continuity in the working,” a close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan told Dawn. However, he did not disclose the names or plans of the government. “We are working on different proposals,” the official said, adding that there will be a smooth transition.
The FBR has collected net revenue of Rs3.39 trillion during Jul-March period which has exceeded the target of Rs3.29tr by more than Rs100bn. This represents a growth of about 10 per cent over the collection of Rs3.08tr during the same period last year.
On the basis of this performance, a three-month extension for Mr Ghani is also under consideration to complete the budget. There are examples in the past when such extensions were given to retiring bureaucrats. A senior tax official in the FBR said that no summary was sent to the prime minister which sought the appointment of a new chairman or an extension for the incumbent chairman. “No summary is moved so far in this regard,” the official said.
For the appointment of a new FBR chairman, four BPS-21 officials — two each from Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and Customs group — are in the run for the coveted post. They include Member Operation IRS Dr Ashfaq Ahmed, Dr Faiz Illahi Memon (who is on deputation in State Life), Member Customs Operation Tariq Huda, and Additional Secretary Finance Mujtaba Memon (also from the Customs group).
Among the four officials, Dr Ahmed is one of the strong candidates for the BPS-22 slot. A high-powered committee meeting was scheduled for this week which has now been rescheduled keeping in mind the health of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Dr Ashfaq, who is very close to top officials in the PM Secretariat, is expecting his promotion.
According to a source in Cabinet Division, the award of a three-month contract to incumbent chairman also suits Dr Ashfaq, who enjoys good working relations with the incumbent chairman. Meanwhile, Dr Ashfaq will get his promotion to next grade so as to be entitled to the office of the chairman.
There is already resentment among IRS officers over the appointment of a junior officer, Dr Ashfaq, as its Member Operation. The senior IRS officers were sidelined and replaced with junior officers. No one could replace Dr Ashfaq because he is very close to top officials in the PTI government, a source in the FBR said. The appointment of a BPS-22 officer from the Pakistan Administrative Service (formerly the District Management Group) is also under consideration. Many names are also in circulation from PAS to be posted as FBR chairman . Previously, PAS officers have been posted as FBR chairman.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021