ISLAMABAD - The four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) received around Rs410 million as their salaries and other incentives from the national kitty during past five years without approval of the Parliament.

Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, officials of the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) disclosed that AGPR issued the salaries to the ECP members on a letter written by the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance had asked the AGPR to disburse the salaries to ECP members that should be equal to the pays of high court judges.

Stunned over the AGPR revelations, the Senate committee members inquired how ECP members were given salaries without approval of the Parliament. Committee Chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwalla asked whether AGPR issued salaries to other departments merely on a letter from the Ministry of Finance or not. However, the AGPR officials could not give satisfactory reply to committee members.

Later, the officials of the Ministry of Finance and AGPR assured the committee that they would review the matter to ascertain whether the payment had been made in violation of rules or not.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) informed that Pakistan was likely to become signatory to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a multi-national commission, from August 31 after which the country would be able to get information from other countries about Pakistani nationals' record in tax matter. This will help in combating tax evasion, as the signatory countries will share information in tax matters.

Member FBR Inland Revenue Rahmatullah Wazir said government would introduce some legal measures to comply with OECD in the finance bill for the upcoming financial year 2016-2017.

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) briefed the committee about Rs18.5 billion losses the National Bank of Pakistan's Bangladesh branch had to face. The NAB said that it had started investigation of the case after completing the inquiry. Majority of the accused were Pakistanis while six Bangladeshis were also involved in the mega scam.

Names of Pakistanis accused in the scam had been placed on Exit Control List (ECL) after completion of the inquiry. The NAB officials did not share the names of the accused with the Committee's members.

Chairman Tax Reforms Commission (TRC) Syed Masood Ali Naqvi briefed the committee about tax reforms. He said that TRC had prepared a 200-pages report after holding more than 150 meetings. A government's committee headed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue Haroon Akhtar was reviewing the report for implementations.

Economist, Dr Kaiser Bangali, briefed the committee on the economic situation of the country. He said better planning could improve Pakistan's economic situation. He said despite being an agricultural country Pakistan’s agricultural growth was only 2 percent.

He recommended the government to improve the performance of the manufacturing sector, which was under pressure due to massive taxation and other issues. He said currently the manufacturing sector was the highest tax-paying sector which was had shut down many industries. The manufacturing sector was paying 29 percent taxes. He suggested that rate of GST must be reduced gradually to 12.5 percent during the next three years and this could be achieved by slashing the rate 1.5 percent each fiscal year from 2016-17.