Thursday, August 29, 2013

CIAA move sends ripples to revenue offices


KATHMANDU, Aug 29: A senior official who was recently transferred from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to a “lucrative” revenue office has been frequenting the ministry seeking a transfer away from that office.

The official had used his best possible personal influence to get transferred a couple of month back to the ´coveted´ office in term of financial gain. Things have turned around now. The official is using his clout now to get transferred to any ´low-profile´ office available from his current ‘attractive posting’.
He is only a representative character of officials who in the past had gotten themselves posted to notorious and financially ´lucrative´ posts and are now frequenting the power centers to be transferred to anywhere else.

An ongoing sweep operation by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) against corrupt officials has stirred panic amongst officials who are working in such economically attractive offices. And, they are seeking safer places to shelter under during this storm and avoid prosecution by the anti-graft constitutional body.

“Beside regular work, we are not in a position to carry out any investigation against tax evaders, who can turn against us any time seeking revenge by filing complaint against us at the CIAA,” a revenue official, who was frequenting MoF seeking his transfer, said.

Key tax offices for revenue collection under the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), transport management offices, Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), Land Revenue Offices, customs offices and other major places notorious for bribe-taking and other forms of financial irregularities are under the CIAA scanner.
Immediately following his appointment as the chief of CIAA, Lok Man Singh Karki had hinted that offices notorious as hotspots for kickbacks, corruption and other unethical activities, will be the first targets of the government´s anti-corruption watch dog.

“I will show zero tolerance to those officials who are encouraging revenue evasion and leakage. I am ready to extend any support to you if you need any support from me in the course of investigation into the cases of revenue fraud,” Karki had told senior revenue officials a few days after taking office.
Ripples of the recently initiated actions against more than six dozen officials of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the immigration office at Tribhuwan International Airport, the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), BP Koirala Health Institute and Nobel Medical College, has struck fear among revenue officers across the country.

“It will be natural to initiate CIAA action against those against whom complaints have been registered. But, such moves should not weaken the morale of the officials to carry out their duties in good faith. We have reports that revenue offices have stopped conducting new investigations on revenue frauds fearing retaliation by evaders who may file cases against the investigating officials to dissuade them from further investigating,” a senior official at the MoF told Republica.
The official also said the number of revenue officials frequenting the ministry for transfer has increased in last few days.

The official also warned that weakening the morale of revenue officials fearing possible reprisals from tax frauds will have a negative impact in revenue mobilization.
However, Karki, at a recent meeting with senior revenue officials, had urged them to use their professional authority without any fear.
About three months after his appointment, Karki had, however, expressed dissatisfaction with senior revenue officials stating that they had failed to exercise their already vested authority.

“Exercising the authority beyond the legally provisioned limit and with prejudice is unforgivable. But it will be counted as an abuse of authority if anyone fails to exercise it when needed,” Karki had said while instructing senior revenue officials two weeks ago.
The strong instruction from the CIAA chief on the back of operations in few government offices has also had revenue officials fearful that they may be victimized in the name of investigations by the CIAA.

Tanka Mani Sharma, the director general of IRD, denied of any problems in carrying out new revenue investigations after the recent actions taken against some government employees by the CIAA.

“There is no need to fear the CIAA´s action if any official carries out his/her duty with good intentions. Only those who have a corrupt mentality are panicking,” Sharma told Republica.
Coincidently, the government failed to meet a target in crucial sources of revenue during the first month (mid-July to mid-August) of the current fiscal.
During the month, the government had mobilized revenue worth Rs 23.28 billion, which is 105.96 percent of the target set for the first month of the current fiscal year -- mid-July to mid-August -- though the targets set for VAT, excise duty and customs duty were missed.

The government reported collection of revenue from customs reached Rs 4.69 billion against a target of Rs 5.03 billion for the month.
Similarly, the mobilization of VAT during the month reached Rs 9.29 billion, which is 3.5 percent less than the target. The collection of excise duty also fell short by 8 percent against a target of Rs 2.98 billion.

Sharma said there was no question of slowing investigations on revenue evasion cases. “I will take immediate action against those who deliberately fail to meet the target of revenue collection and revenue investigation for any excuse,” Sharma.

Published on 2013-08-30 04:50:22

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