ISLAMABAD - The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday admitted in the Senate that the reported corruption and incompetence of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) cost around Rs 1000 billion in the revenue loss to the national exchequer.

Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Senator Azam Khan Swati made these remarks in the House while taking part in the budget debate.

The Minister severely criticised the FBR, a federal government body responsible for levying and collection of federal duties and taxes, and remarked, “It is the most corrupt institution in the history of country.”

He said that he had made similar remarks during a cabinet meeting and Prime Minister was “very kind” to endorse his views. “Yes, it is 100 per cent corrupt and that is why we are going for automation,” he said while quoting PM.

Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani while endorsing Swati’s remarks against FBR said that it was true.

The minister alleged that even FBR officials were not making tax collections for the state but for themselves and this practice needed to be stopped.

On this, Sanjrani reminded the minister who is also a senior leader of the ruling party that he was in the government.

But the Narcotics Minister went on to state that majority of people in FBR were “extremely corrupt” and re-emphasized that even an inspector of the board was making so much money that every Cabinet member was worried about it. He demanded of the government to go for automation to purge the institution of corruption and to increase revenue collection.

Swati said that expansion in tax base was the key to take the people and the country forward.

Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmad said that the minister’s remarks that FBR's corruption and incompetence were costing Rs 1000 billion in the revenue loss were very serious and asked whether any senior officer from the board was present in the gallery to hear this?

On this, Chairman Senate passed a ruling stating that FBR Chairperson and its three members including policy, Customs and Income Tax must be present in the house before the session commences on Wednesday.

Earlier, former Chairman Senate and PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani taking part in the budget debate said that this budget has nothing for the common man.

“It is not the real budget, the actual budget has been made and kept with the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he said while criticizing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s proposed Finance Bill 2020.

PPP lawmaker underscored that the budget does not provide any relief in price hike, unemployment, shortages of drugs well as petroleum products, and rising price of sugar and wheat. 

He alleged that the vagueness and non-seriousness of the budget is reflected in the Press conference of the Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh when he states “that the provinces should formulate their budgets based on their own best assessments and the past performance of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).”

Rabbani alleged that pays and pensions of the government employees have been frozen on the behest of IMF.

“The cat is out of the bag – the centre wants the provinces to pay for federal expenditures by reducing their share in NFC which is reflected in the terms and conditions set in the recently formed Commission.”

Rabbani concluded that the international slogan of “I can’t breathe” has gained significance in Pakistan because now – the industrial worker, the peasant, the intellectual, the professional, the media, the government, the provinces, the federation, the parliament, and the Constitution can’t breathe. “Let the Constitution breathe.”

Earlier, the Parliamentary leader of PPP in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman opening the budget debate on behalf of Opposition leader said that the budget is devoid of any reality.

“It is a cut and paste of last year’s budget to just get the accounting exercise done to appease the IMF,” she said.

She remarked that it is a cruel and unusual budget as it completely ignored COVID-19 crisis that has hit the country. “It is time to heal polarities and to make difficult and structural decisions as the country is drifting in a time of acute emergency without a roadmap.”

Senator Sherry Rehman said that the budget appears to assume that the COVID-19 threat does not exist and lacks any roadmap for economic recovery.

Leader of the House in Senate, Dr Shahzad Waseem while responding to the speech of Senator Sherry Rehman said that the budget documents did not mere contain figures rather it has complete roadmap for future progress.

He said the budget is reflection of vision and guidance of Prime Minister Imran Khan which revolves around three principles including empathy, sacrifices and reforms. He remarked that the government took consistent and timely decisions to cope with the pandemic despite limited resources.