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Reign of Terror in NBR

Reign of Terror in NBR

- Khaled Mahmood

The entire administration of National Board of Revenue (NBR) which is the main source of public revenue is currently facing the onslaught of a transitional Sidr (Cyclone) due to the ceaseless unrest, disorderliness, inefficiency, improper management, lack of foresight, whims and caprices of an individual or a group and abominable decisions and activities. Here is the pin drop silence and hidden grievances; it seems that the entire Revenue Board with the officials and employees of its subordinate wings and organs are fighting a cold war against an alien dictator. In the history of 44 years’ journey after the independence of Bangladesh such a sort of unendurable situation did not persist in NBR. The majority of the stakeholders connected with NBR including the officers-employees have expressed similar opinion about the said intolerable situation obtaining here.

Many businessmen connected with small medium and big business and industries and exports and imports trades have opined that the present NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman is not industry or business friendly. As he does not wish boosting of these sectors so also he fails to invigorate the revenue sector of the government. He is playing rat and cat game with the government revenue and the business community! Consequently the nation is being incurring loss on the whole.
In the opinion of the experts, unless there are mutual confidence, respect, trust and sense of duty and responsibility and corruption-free highest patriotism a ladder of economic growth for a nation can in no way be achieved.

On the other side, in the first month of July, 2015-16 financial year NBR has been able to realize revenue less by about a quarter to 3000 crore taka of the target amount. In this news reports with head-wise figures have been published in the influential dailies of the country. Different responsible officials of Customs, Income Tax and VAT Commissariat involved in revenue collection have opined that the revenue target for the second month (August) of 2015-16 fiscal years also falls short of the targeted amount for the month. Whereas the statistics show that in the July and August months of the preceding financial year (2014-15) the revenue collection far exceeded the targeted amount.

It has been known from a reliable source that NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman in the mean time has signed Annual Performance Agreement (APA) with the Cabinet Secretary to prove his work efficiency. He has taken this initiative to introduce this pilot project with his subordinate officials – employees. He has put greater importance on information Technology (IT). It has been observed that from top to field level revenue collection officials are being kept busy about half of the working day in IT function. But a part of the tax and VAT payers are yet not acquainted with this new technology. NBR Chairman in most of the time remains busy with work plan only. Most of the persons who pay tax and VAT in our country are generally illiterate or half educated. NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman always keeps the officials – employees connected with tax, customs and VAT administration busy for supplying updated revenue collection data. Consequently they cannot put total watch and time in revenue collection fields.

It is also opined by the tax officials that as long as the tax payers are not equally adopting IT system or used with these new technology it will not be fruitful for collecting the targeted revenue through this type of IT based collection system.

Many of the officials – employees involved in revenue collection have said – due to the new and newer work plans of NBR Chairman the office of NBR has now turned into the national planning Directorate. Those officials – employees who extend their time unnecessarily up to 12 or 2 A.M. to Nojibur Rahman and provide him sycophancy, they are known as his faithful ones. This is the main reason of non-achievement of the targeted revenue for July and August of the financial year 2015-16. Another cause of failure in revenue collection is the mass transfer of officials from top to the lowest levels at a close period. The key force of revenue collection of NBR has been applied in the new and new work plans of NBR Chairman.

The amount of claim of NBR to different persons and organizations is about 26 thousand crore taka. Out of this amount Chittagong Custom House shares 70 percent of the total. In this connection about 23 thousand finance cases are remaining pending in the lower and higher courts. In this respect no expected step from the Chairman and the NBR authority is noticed.

The concerned responsible officers of NBR expressed their inability with politeness to inform about the exact amount of revenue collection in July and August, 2015 due to the absence of permission of the authoritative official. Even there is no statistics of revenue collection for July-August in the web-site of NBR.

Several responsible officers of NBR and officials – employees engaged in field level revenue collection have informed that basically the absence of proper guidance, exacerbation at the central level of NBR, dearth of coordination, playing a trick on others, undisciplined environment, unwanted interference, distrust, want of mutual respect, etc. are some of the reasons that have contributed to the present critical situation. If these circumstances continue the revenue collection of the government for 2015-16 through NBR would be caught by anemia.

In the initial stage of introduction towards the early March, 2015 while meeting with NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman in connection with taking an interview at his office chamber at Segunbagicha he told me during conversation that he told Mr. Anwar Hussain, the present Minister for Forest and Environment that, ‘Do you know sir, among the 71 secretaries I have no similarity with the rest. At this remark he wanted to know the dissimilarity eagerly. I replied that I am the only left-hander writer amongst all.’ Listening to the reply the Minister burst into laughter and the environment turned very pleasant, Md. Nojibur Rahman added.

Afterwards Md. Nojibur Rahman resumed signing his files with left hand and turning to The Economy journalists present there said – do you feel the ‘alamat’ (omens)?: war has started – I am, as if, a terror against misdeeds. I told him what is the fault in becoming terror by justice against injustice? In reply the Chairman said that Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina asked me to apply bulldozer to streamline the NBR. Afterwards in 17-23 March 2015 issue The Economy made the second lead cover story on Md. Nojibur Rahman, Chairman, NBR with the heading “Practice of Good Governance will help us achieve our desired goals – Chairman, NBR.” Before this event, on 27th January, 2015, remark of Md. Nojibur Rahman: “Materialization of political directives is the only Challenge” was published. Again on May 5, 2015 The Economy’s second cover lead story titled: ‘Is it a reformation drive or exoneration gesture of NBR Chairman?’ appeared. Then again on 11 August, 2015 two reports: (i) ‘The present Chairman, NBR and his endeavor for revenue collection’ and (ii) ‘Voluntary or forced retirement spree in NBR’ were published.

In the published reports NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman has been portrayed as an honest, idealistic and dynamic public servant. Simultaneously indications about the existing problems persisting in NBR and its subordinate organs including corrupt officials – employees were mentioned. In the interest of the country and the nation NBR Chairman has been provided suggestion on the actions to be taken.

Terming white as white and telling black as black is the policy ideal of The Economy. So we are not to care on the praises or condemnation from any quarter.

Md. Nojibur Rahman, Chairman, NBR who is a dedicated hard working high official is noticed to work in NBR day-night from 9/10 A.M. (morning) to 2/3 A.M (night).Some of his colleagues remark that sir works 24 hours in sleep and dream for the welfare of the nation. But many of his colleagues are not satisfied with the works of this big sir of them. Many of them opine that may be sir a robot/metallic –a highly patriotic human being but we are not of the kind of him. In the leisure time outside government work we have the responsibility for looking after the family affairs. In the holidays we have to go to the village home to meet the parents and relatives. Particularly the personal staff with high rank including female officers in this regard have been noticed to express displeasure as many of them are unwilling to work in two shifts on family and health grounds. On condition of anonymity many officers of NBR have remarked that there are countless allegations against NBR Chairman, Md. Nojibur Rahman like – killing time on various pleas, viewing everybody with doubtful notion, feeling everyone thief except himself, considering self decision as the only 100% right one, imposing unjust decision on all, holding meeting, seminar, symposia on useless/without proper agenda, misusing government funds on unnecessary matters, misbehavior with the colleagues in open meeting or in his office chamber, sending letters to DCs/SPs of the districts and to outposts in the borders and key offices of BGB glorifying self exaltedness and majesty, being overjoyed and frenzied with luxurious picnic, inciting all in the principle of half work and half propaganda, unnecessary uttering loudly in every breath about his personal talk- conversation with Prime Minister, Finance Minister or the concerned State Minister, the glittering knife of sending someone to forced retirement, giving indulgence to the agents of gainful posting business, allowing repeated foreign tours of certain officials, demotion of few high officials.

It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina once remarked with a smile about the distinguished political leaders, high profile personalities of civil society, intelligentsia, lawyers and journalists of the country who take part in the television talk shows as the midnight burglars. What would she kindly tell now about the midnight ramble of NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman?

The recommendations forwarded by NBR Chairman, Md. Nojibur Rahman for sending Md. Farid Uddin, Member, NBR, Customs Policy, Statistics and Research into compulsory retirement have been rejected from the high level of the government. According to the opinion of the top officials and field level officers this rejection is a learnable lesson on the part of the NBR Chairman. But official orders have been issued by NBR Chairman to the effect that Commissioner Hafizur Rahman and Dr. Golam Md. Munir for their overstay abroad without permission and leaving the country without permission respectively and Commissioner Masooque Al-Hossain now working in ADB on lien have been demoted. There are opinions in favor or against the action. Off course, there are allegations against them of indiscipline and corruption. It can be mentioned that there are court and departmental cases against Hafizur Rahman.

Our question now: is NBR chairman adorned with the appellation of honesty ideals against the National Board of Revenue itself? And is the direction of the Prime Minister to apply bulldozer against corruption or is it in destroying the revenue collection? Virtually what is the secret of Md. Nojibur Rahman in his being different from rest of the 70 secretaries? What does he maintains in his Pandora’s Box is a matter for the country and nation to know.

NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman must have to keep in mind that speed of rocket, supersonic plane or ordinary passenger aero plane are not the same. Activities of aero plane pilots and that of the drivers of goods trucks or passenger buses are not the same. He is not carrying out the responsibility of the chief of UN Peace Keeping Mission or he is not an actor in a plot of US-FBI members for pushing someone in the trap. He is also not an official in the defense services or internal law and order forces. He has not taken the task of annihilation of the enemy. So we think that he should not have a mentality of this sort.

We think that the responsibility of the civil bureaucrat like Chairman, NBR is to establish his transparent and personal brilliant image in the place of confidence of all quarters and workforce involved in the collection of public revenue and to achieve the target fixed by the government for the financial year 2015-16. Punishing the culprit is lawful but harassing someone without any offence is unlawful and immoral.

It is heard from the talks-discussion of the people that NBR Chairman Md. Nojibur Rahman is very much beloved to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Finance Minister A.M. A. Muhith, State Minister for Finance Abdul Mannan. Assuming the contention as not baseless, it is to be considered with importance. If that would not be so, Md. Nojibur Rahman would not be able to become Chairman of NBR. If anybody puts blows at the point of confidence of the highest authority willingly or unwillingly or for dearth of intelligence and gets engaged in intrigue for fulfilling the agenda of a particular quarter, in that case punishment for the offender is surely inevitable.

The Present whims and caprices in NBR administration, mismanagement, dissatisfaction in every field, unrest, precarious condition, orphaned state of national revenue collection and intense fear and excitement are not all good news for the responsible person and for responsibility distribution making authority. For the interest of the 16 crore people the government should solve the problem without loss of time. Because the people are not compelled to carry the liability of inefficiency and failure of one Nojibur Rahman or any other party or side. The prevailing condition of NBR is very unpleasant. So intervention of Prime Minister is urgently needed.

Last Corrected on 09/09/2015