ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday introduced a new policy for Toshakhana gifts, under which public office-holders can only retain presents worth less than $300.

The policy titled ‘Toshakhana Procedure for the Acceptance and Disposal of Gifts, 2023’, which was framed on March 8, was made public on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting approved it.

As per the policy, the government functionaries “except those in BPS-1 to BPS-4” were barred from receiving cash awards as gifts. In case they could not decline the cash, the amount shall be immediately deposited to the treasury and a copy of the treasury challan shall be provided to the Toshakhana in-charge, it said.

The new policy also prohibited government functionaries from receiving gifts for their spouses or family members. “Such gifts received by the president/head of the government for their person or their family members shall be deposited in Toshakhana for the determination of assessed market value, retention cost, and further disposal as per Toshakhana procedure. These instructions do not apply to gifts and donations made to institutions.”

Revised Toshakhana policy gets nod from cabinet

“Gift(s) valuing up to $300 shall be allowed to be retained by the recipient after due payments as per its assessed market value,” the memo said, adding that the presents exceeding $300 would be deposited in Toshakhana.

According to the policy, all gifts, irrespective of value, must be “reported” and “deposited” in Toshakhana within “30 days of receipt of the gifts” or “30 days from the date of return to Pakistan in case of [a] foreign visit”.

It added that “punitive action” would be taken against the individual recipient if they failed to report the receipt of gifts and deposit them within the stipulated timeframe. The “chief of protocol”, who is an officer of the foreign ministry, or his representative attached to visiting dignitaries or delegations will be responsible to supply the list of the gifts received and the names of their recipients.

In cases where the protocol chief and his representative are not associated, the ministry sponsoring the event will be responsible for providing the details.

“In the case of outgoing delegations or visits abroad of our dignitaries, it shall be the responsibility of the ambassador of Pakistan and or head of the Pakistan mission in the country concerned to report the receipt of the gifts with the name of the recipients.”

Perishable items

However, the new policy showed leniency towards perishable items which can be retained by officials “without reporting” to Toshakhana. It added that experts in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and private appraisers will assess the value of the gifts within 30 days whereas an expert of Pakistan Ordnance Factories in Wah will assess the value of weapons received as gifts.

“If the difference in the value of gifts assessed by the two categories of appraisers is less than 25 per cent, the higher value will be accepted. However, if the difference in value is 25 per cent or more, a committee to be constituted by the cabinet secretary shall decide the final value,” it said.

Animals received as gifts will be transferred to the nearest remount veterinary and farms corps for early sale or handed over to the zoological garden, as per the document. It said gold and silver bullion shall be sent to the State Bank of Pakistan’s mint.

Annual audit and auction

According to the new policy, the auditor general shall conduct an annual audit of Toshakhana. The federal cabinet also bound the Cabinet Division to update the list of gifts of Toshakhana on its website on a quarterly basis.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023

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