PM Imran Khan has made digital governance or e-governance a hallmark of his governance policy. The main objective of e-governance is to provide a single-entry point or one window operation for all government services to the citizens. The theoretical progression in e-government generally hinges on a four-phase mechanism including the information phase, the interaction phase, the transaction phase, and the integration phase. The integration phase demands more than a web presence by the government. It rather includes the seamless permeation of one solution from one to (multiple) other departments. In economizing the effort, energy, time, and money, the government agencies need to collaborate to provide the services to share information and to make the process more wholesome/integrated. Under ideal circumstances, several government agencies can synergize their efforts to provide each service at a single-entry point. This is equally true and desirable in the case of non-e-governance as well.
The relationship between different government agencies needs coordination and the ensuing relationships are referred to as Government-to-Government (G2G). Theoretically, G2G refers to the relationship between the organizations of the same government (subjects) of public administration. The concept of G2G also encompasses relationship referring to the information and data exchange, business relationship, ICT solutions, document exchanges, cadastral sharing, and provision of services and solutions at no or minimal cost. Such exchanges and the success of such interactions depend upon the degree of communication, and cooperation mechanisms.
In the case of Pakistan, FBR has ordered multiple Requests for Proposal (RFP) and Invitation for License (IfL) for the Track-n-Trace system since 2007.Multiple national and international companies have been bidding in the process but due to technical reasons, the process got stalled multiple times. Track-n-Trace system envisages placing of the tax stamps on the products where the chances of tax evasion are maximum and the conglomerates have not been paying their due share in the past. Industries such as Tobacco, Cement, Fertilizer, Beverages, and pharmaceuticals, etc. are all the appropriate candidates for Track-n-Trace stamps, with the tobacco industry-leading by a sizable margin. The tobacco industry (also referred to as big tobacco) has been incurring an annual loss of more than Rs. 44 Billionthrough tax evasion. The tobacco industry very conveniently places the blame on the illicit or counterfeits through concerted and focused publication campaigns. The increase in the frequency of the newspaper articles can be observed sky-rocketing during the months preceding budgetary tax increments. There is no doubt that Pakistan faces problems of illicit trade in tobacco products, including smuggled products and undeclared local production, and limited counterfeit production. However, the estimated cost of all these illegalities is not more than Rs 20 billion every year (more than twice that amount is underpaid in taxes by the tobacco industry).
The tobacco industry very conveniently places the blame on the illicit or counterfeits through concerted and focused publication campaigns. The increase in the frequency of the newspaper articles can be observed sky-rocketing during the months preceding budgetary tax increments
Aspired Track-n-Trace system necessitates secure, and non-removable high-security tax stamp/markers/codes which include unique, secure, and non-removable identification markings, combined with state-of-the-art electronic monitoring and tracking system. These features have been obligated in the Track-n-Tracesystem to safeguard the existing revenue and to streamline robust revenue increase, simultaneously causing a reduction in illicit trade and counterfeits.
NADRA has been a strong contender in the bidding process in the past and has offered FBR the provision of all the desired security features. FBR has four main security features including an overt security feature visible with the naked eye, a covert security feature, an optically variable security feature, and a smartphone App readable security feature. NADRA has offered a total of eight security features (surpassing many currencies of the world), at no cost to the government. The (minimal cost) needs to be paid by the tobacco industry. The end-to-end support also includes training of the FBR staff and sustainability. For some unknown reasons, FBR does not want to perform this G2G operation, which could save billions to the national exchequer in the long term and generate billions more in annual tax revenue. The only reason not to opt for such a path seems to the absence of coordination/collaboration summed up in willingness.
Waseem Iftikhar is a scholar PhD at Center for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) at NUST, Islamabad.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/710216/willingness-the-onlyimpediment-in-the-g2g-contract-in-tobacco/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.