‘At least businessmen send personal funds abroad, even if for evading taxes’

KARACHI: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Sindh director general Mohammad Altaf Bawany, while referring to a recent international research study, stated that corruption raises the cost of doing business by 10 percent in many countries around the world, but in Pakistan’s case, corruption’s affect on the economy is found to be more enduring as it raises the cost of business by 20 percent.

Speaking at a seminar on the Role of Business Community in Curbing the Menace of Corruption, he said, “All of us are somehow responsible for rising corruption in the country as we give bribe in order to get our work done at the earliest. Unfortunately in Pakistan, laws exist to deal with bribe seekers, but no law has been devised so far to deal with bribe givers.”

In order to completely eradicate corruption from the society, the NAB director general stressed that a jihad had to be carried out against the menace. “Jihad doesn’t mean we should go on war but we have to struggle against corruption”, he said, adding that honest businessmen should not be scared if they receive summons from NAB. Instead, they must immediately respond. “NAB takes action only when the individual fails to respond to the summon notices which are sent thrice by the Bureau prior to taking action.”

Highlighting the functioning of the Bureau, he said, “NAB takes strict action against its own officers who are involved in any corruption or malpractice. In this regard, 35 officers have been expelled from NAB, of which many are still in jail.”

DG NAB further said, “I am also against the amnesty scheme which was introduced for recovery of taxes but if the income has been earned from illegal means, NAB has the right to take action against such individuals.”

He informed the gathering that plea bargain is only carried out to recover funds and it saves individuals from being imprisoned, but they are considered offenders nonetheless, and they cannot hold any government post for a 10-year period. They also remain deprived of availing any financing facility from banks.

Former KCCI president Siraj Kassam Teli, in his remarks, stated that honesty and truthfulness in front of everyone including the Prime Minister, the President or anyone else has led to the success of the Businessmen Group which has been constantly winning KCCI’s election since two decades.

Teli said, “Anyone approaching KCCI for help is fully assisted by the Office Bearers but, NAB must also understand that even if a leading businessman attempts to seek KCCI’s help for anything wrong or illegal, we never support such individuals. During all these years, we have never supported any thief or dishonest individual but have always fought for those who were facing genuine issues. As long as the Businessman Group stays in control of Karachi Chamber, we will never support any dishonest element.”

“Public Service and truthfulness have always been the first and foremost policy of the Businessmen Group which is the only way to resolve all types of issues but unfortunately in our country, nobody dares to speak the truth and do not bothers to look beyond his personal interests, resulting in ruining the very fabric of our society,” he said, adding that there is a need to be truthful and honest in order to pull the country out of ongoing crisis.

Referring to the amendments being made by the bureaucrats and policymakers, Siraj Teli said that these amendments are made to gain personal benefits whereas the taxation policies are devised in such a manner to harass the business and industrial community. Most of the laws devised are not for any good except enabling officials to mint money by harassing and squeezing business and industrial community through massive discretionary powers granted to FBR during the last five years.

He requested the NAB director general to take the business and industrial community on board whenever NAB is dealing with issues related to any businessman or industrialist. “We don’t want 100 percent involvement but NAB has to be sure that they are doing the right thing and must ensure that no injustice is done to any honest person. NAB is free to take action against any dishonest businessman or industrialist but relevant information and evidence should be shared with Karachi Chamber and if these evidence are not deniable, the Karachi Chamber will stand alongside NAB against such dishonest businessman or industrialist,” he added.

He also advised the NAB DG to hold discussions with all the Chambers and Trade Associations across the province to identify their issues whereas maximum benefit of doubt should be extended to the business community in NAB cases.

Commenting on money laundering and amnesty scheme, he said that 90 percent of the funds sent abroad by the business community are their personal funds taken from their own business concerns. Their only fault is that they have sent these funds abroad to evade income tax which is illegal but these funds are purely extracted from their personal businesses whereas the bureaucrats and politicians have been sending embezzled money abroad by misusing powers. “I am not in favour of amnesty scheme as it is like punishing those honest taxpayers who continue to pay taxes, work honestly and abide by all laws throughout their lives,” he said, adding that Amnesty Scheme was just an attempt to pave way and facilitate thieves and dishonest who had looted billions of rupees.

Earlier, KCCI President Muffasar Atta Malik, in his welcome address, pointed out that the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has ranked Pakistan 117th out of 180 with India at 81st rank. “It is very unfortunate to be at such a low rank and even more depressing because this is an Islamic Republic founded after a long freedom struggle involving unmatched sacrifices of lives and wealth,” he added.

He underscored the need to minimise human to human interaction by fostering technology orientation in the public and private sectors which would serve to minimize corruption, while also enabling accurate monitoring of the relevant departments.

Muffasar Malik also stressed the need for more stringent anti-corruption laws to instill fear within ranks of corrupt officials. They should be sure of serious consequences if they get involved in corrupt practices or any other misdoings. The public should be made aware of the laws and their rights through media campaigning.

 Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.