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February 13, 2018
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Govt must use technology to deal with incompetent, corrupt HR

Business

February 13, 2018

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By Mansoor Ahmad

LAHORE: Government can use technology to deal with incompetent and corrupt human resources, who are piloting the economy, without being held accountable for unjustified decisions taken against businesses.

These stewards of economy have created a fear among businessmen, who avoid coming out against the wrongdoings, because the reprisals, however unjustified, would be intolerable. Entrepreneurs from all sectors of the economy feel regulatory discrimination, but only speak against the injustices on condition of anonymity with the media. Businessmen complain in private that they have to pay speed money to get their tax refunds from the Federal Board of Revenue, but they at the same time fear that coming out openly against this practice may deprive them of refunds for a long time.

There are people whose refunds are pending for years. There are some entrepreneurs, who are regularly slapped with an audit order after filing tax returns. The auditors almost always increase their tax and impose penalties.

However, they are cleared at the appellate level or in the higher courts. Tax officials, who initiate the proceedings time and again against the same entrepreneurs, remain protected and are not even reprimanded.

Bureaucracy takes wrong decisions either due to incompetence or because of vested interests. In both cases, the concerned person should not be allowed to work on that post. Nonetheless, such officials’ whose decisions have been overturned by the courts move to higher posts by the time the decision is announced.

The court decisions are almost always to the extent of providing relief to the aggrieved businessmen. Even if some penalties are imposed, the state has to bear them, while the official, instrumental in hurting the petitioner, is not held accountable. This absence of accountability continues to weaken our institutions. We fail to take advantage of technology.

We install CCTV cameras around the city and even in buildings but do not install this system at the desks where public dealing is done. The CCTV monitoring of public dealing desks would reveal the efficiency of the system and the individual.

It will also reveal the time they spend on the desk, on their phone; on entertaining a friend during duty hours; and the time taken to process the assigned job. It would show that some applications are processed speedily, while others are brushed aside and the applicant told to come again. The footage would also reveal how many applicants were entertained out of turn. Any applicant should be permitted to check the CCTV footage if he thinks he was not treated fairly. There should be a fee for this request and if the complaint is correct the person at the desk should be asked to pay that fee. All this is possible at nominal cost through available technology.

Increase in tax revenue, and improvement in health and education would remain a pipe dream until the policymakers ensured elimination of incompetent human resource, encouraged transparent use of technology and plugged loopholes that encourage under-invoicing and smuggling. Pakistan and India have common borders and almost similar culture. It is worth noting that many Indian goods cross over into Pakistan in large quantities, but even some lucrative Pakistani products seldom enter Indian soil through informal routes.

Are the borders between the two countries porous for Pakistan goods only? Technology can check this illegal infiltration of goods in Pakistani markets as well.

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