Excise officials ‘spiriting away’ Rs 30m annually


The Excise and Taxation Department receives around Rs 30 million in the form of illegal collections from paint shops and spirit manufacturing factories in the provincial capital, Pakistan Today has learnt. According to details, the department has divided the region into six circles, each falling under the jurisdiction of an excise inspector. These circles constitute areas of Gulberg, Model Town, Nolakha, Sandha, Mozang and Saddar. A recent survey revealed that there are around 600 paint shops and 85 spirit manufacturers in Lahore alone. The department’s personnel collect, on a monthly basis, between Rs 200 and Rs 500 from each of these shops and between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 from each of these factories. In this manner, they amass an estimated Rs 30 million annually. Sources in the department said the legality of these collections is completely dubious and unacceptable for all existing and aspiring enterprises. In cases where shops are selling spirit without holding valid licences, the officials have no problem in gorging out money from the shop owners. For those who have a license to sell, the department’s officials engage the enterprise in legal jargon and loopholes to extort money from them, the sources added. Sources further revealed that factories who are provided with licenses by the department often engage in misusing their rights on the behest of these corrupt officials. These licenses include a clause that limit the amount of spirit each factory can produce. Naturally, factory owners who serve the officials well are able to produce thousands of litres in excess, they added. Muhammad Ashraf, a shop owner at Mochi Gate, told Pakistan Today that the entire department is corrupt. “We have a valid license but still we are bound to pay these excise officers,” he said. “Not only do we pay an annual license fee of Rs 5,000 to the department, we also have to keep paying these officials throughout the year to keep our business running,” he said. Nasir Mahmood, who runs a paint shop in Ghaziabad, said that he paid excise officials on a monthly basis because he wanted to remain in business. “I feed my children from this shop. If I don’t pay, they might construct a baseless issue and seal my shop,” he said.
“This has been going on for years. Those who pay can indulge in any illegal activity without getting into harm’s way. Those who don’t pay or cannot pay cannot expect to do business,” said Anees from Shadbagh.
Hammad, a businessman from Garhi Shahu, believes that in Pakistan you need extra money to start a business. “Any official from any relevant department can come to your shop or factory and raise allegations to demand money. Every official has his own style and we have to interact with anyone who shows up,” he said.
Boota from Shadman told Pakistan Today that he had been in the paint business for two decades. According to him, they had to cater to these officers to avoid problems. “Some officers are not fond of cash,” he said. “They like to receive paint boxes instead,” he said.
Ali, who owns a factory in the Kotlakhpat area, said that he paid Rs 100,000 for license to produce spirit but whenever the excise inspector showed up, despite everything being in order, they had to pay extra. “They start rambling over how government jobs don’t pay enough and how our cooperation was essential to them and how the money would travel up the hierarchy to the top-most officials,” said Ali.
Director Excise Region B Ashiq Hussain Shah denied allegations of corruption levelled against his department.
“If we receive any such reports backed by evidence, we would be bound to take action against those officers and inspectors,” he said.