ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance approved on Thursday Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill of 2016 aimed at prohibiting people from holding assets and properties under others’ or fake names.
The Senate committee, chaired by Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, decided to amend the draft by including reward provisions for whistleblowers.
The proposed bill gives stringent powers to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as it allows the authorities to raid and have full access to any premises, place, account, documents or computer, etc with prior notice to inquire the accused.
During the proceedings, an official of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) expressed reservations that such a law would create panic among banks. The SBP official said that they had no objection to the powers of seeking information from a banking company, but they would object to any action beyond that level.
However, Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood and FBR chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan insisted that such powers were needed to implement the law. They clarified that the section related to the banking company in the bill was similar to the provisions in Income Tax and Customs Law.
The benami bill is expected to curb parking of illegal wealth in the form of assets and properties, in the name of a person who has no capacity to earn it.
The proposed law would empower the FBR to raid and check holdings of persons possessing wealth beyond their means or the said properties are in the name of their spouse, servants or parents, etc.
It will now be forwarded to the Senate for approval. If cleared, it will be sent back to the National Assembly.
Though the draft bill has already been approved by the National Assembly, it will be referred back to the lower house as the Senate has made amendments to the draft.
Meanwhile, the committee was also briefed about the proposed Public-Private Partnership Authority Law that would undertake megaprojects in country and Infrastructure Project Development Facility would be merged with it.
It would provide a framework to regulate joint ventures between public and private sectors.
However, the proposed law has faced criticism from senators. “There are already too many authorities and yet the government wants to create another white elephant,” Senator Mohsin Leghari said.
However, the finance secretary said the authority would not be a burden on the national exchequer as the government would fund it only once and the rest would be generated by the authority from its own resources.
After his briefing, it was decided that the bill would be discussed further in the committee.
The committee also deferred a discussion on proposed amendments in the Economic Reforms Act of 1992, as bank representatives expressed concerns that placing restrictions on foreign currency accounts may shatter accountholders’ confidence.
The committee was informed that there was $6.5 billion in foreign currency accounts belonging to private individuals, and the cash withdrawal from these accounts was limited too.
courtesy : dawn news