ISLAMABAD, April 1: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday turned down the plea of the chief tax collector of the country to overlook the financial irregularities of “trivial amounts in a department dealing with billions”. Taking exception to the request of the chief tax collector of the country, Abdullah Yousaf, PAC member Qamar Zaman Kaira said: “We cannot ignore irregularity of even one rupee of the taxpayers’ money. Dacoity is a dacoity irrespective of the fact if it is of Rs10 or Rs100 million.”

Auditor General of Pakistan Mohammad Younas Khan said: “One penny is as important as one billion.” During the past three days, the PAC dealt with financial irregularities of Rs4.4 billion in the CBR. The irregularities were identified by a sample and random audit of only a few cases in the Audit Report 2000-01. The amount could have been much higher as the CBR had not given the sales tax record to the AGP. On the request of the CBR chairman, most of the audit objections, which added up to irregularities of billions of rupees, were deferred. Some were settled subject to reconciliation and verification by the audit.

The AGP, while referring to financial irregularities of billions of rupees in government departments, said the audit presented just a sample of the irregularities before the PAC.

PAC Chairman Malik Allahyar observed that the audit had to go by the book and could not ignore the rules. However, at the same time, the PAC chairman gave relief to the CBR chairman by settling the audit objections relating to Rs2.2 undue benefit given by the Karachi collectorate.

Mr Yousaf used his powers as CBR chairman to write off Rs2.2 million of taxpayers’ money without taking any action against the officials concerned of his department who had allowed the lapse to happen. When Mr Yousaf said the relevant information about change in rules had not reached the officials at Karachi, he was questioned as to when the notifications were issued. The PAC members were surprised to hear Mr Yousaf’s justification for letting the officials go free on the grounds that CBR’s SRO took more than a year to reach its officials in Karachi.

After PAC members, Hafiz Hussain and Qamar Zaman, warned the CBR chairman not to give undue justifications or play the devil’s advocate, Mr Yousaf accepted the responsibility on behalf of the officials as head of the organization.

Another committee member questioned the performance of various collectorates of board, which could not detect tax evasions. “Their different collectorates did not detect tax evasion and only two per cent of the audit detected the evasion of millions of rupees,” Mr Nisar said.

He said a lot of money might have changed hands and the officials responsible should be taken to task in various cases involving irregularities of millions of rupees.

The PAC also caught the CBR chairman unprepared with details when he was asked about the names of persons on the board of directors of three sugar mills — Abdullah Sugar Mills, Shakargunj Sugar Mills and Chinar Sugar Mills. On the directives of the committee, he promised to place the names of the board of directors of the three sugar mills before the PAC.

On a number of occasions, the CBR chairman requested for time to reconcile the audit objections as the cases were under adjudication or in the courts.

After the PAC gave time to the board chairman to set his house in order by deferring various audit paras, the AGP said: “Even after a passage of four years, the cases are still under adjudication. What should the AGP and the PAC do?” In a case relating non-realization of sales tax, additional tax and penalties amounting to Rs9.6 million, the PAC was told that the Ittefaq Foundary of the Sharif family was being auctioned to recover the government dues.

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