ISLAMABAD: Anti-tobacco activists have alleged that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), while granting a licence for the establishment and operation of the entire Track & Trace system for tobacco products, has “ignored technical assessments” and has “granted the licence to the lowest financial bidder”.
Earlier, the FBR had invited an Invitation for Licence (IFL) for the implementation of an IT-based solution to ensure electronic monitoring of tobacco products. The decision was taken to prevent the leakage of revenue, underreporting of production and sales of tobacco products etc.
FBR had granted a licence to National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) at price of Rs731 per 1,000 stamps for a period of five years to establish, maintain and operate the entire T&T system of the tobacco sector.
Malik Imran, a representative of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, while talking to Pakistan Today, alleged that the award of the said licence by FBR lacked transparency.
“The FBR had amended the rules to facilitate a particular company,” he alleged, adding that the board compromised the technical capabilities for T&T licence by choosing the lowest financial bidder with no past experience in establishing such systems.
He revealed that INEXTO, a cloud-based global tracking system and brand protection solution, is partners with NRTC and also has business links with an international tobacco company (prominent in Pakistan). He said that this international company had acquired the T&T services of INEXTO for its own surveillance.
“NRTC won the bid because of its association with INEXTO, which is the front company of the tobacco industry and receives funding from the said international company,” Malik Imran said. “FBR should make public the technical assessment (weighted average) of the participants.”
Meanwhile, sources in the FBR informed that 13 bidders participated in the bidding process to get the licence for the T&T system, adding that all participants consisted of joint ventures.
They said that eight participants were found technically qualified in the evaluation process and that the entire bidding process was transparent and a right step towards increasing the tax net.
According to sources, the FBR is in a process to document the economy as per the IMF instructions. “The revenue board intends to increase the tax revenue approximately by Rs20 billion to Rs30 billion annually with the implementation of the T&T system for tobacco products,” they added.
Upon contact, an FBR spokesman maintained that technical evaluations were conducted by the FBR technical evaluation committee to assess the participants of the bid. He admitted that Reliance Solutions Private Limited obtained highest marks in technical evaluation while the licence winner (NRTC) stood second.
“NRTC may not have the experience but it a partner of INEXTO, which has vast experience in establishing, maintaining and operating the track and trace system in the tobacco sector.”