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PAC orders probe into toll tax evasion

ISLAMABAD: The tax that every vehicle pays while running on roads is not reaching the national kitty, as massive evasion of toll taxes has been going on, mainly on motorways, prompting the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to order an inquiry. 

PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Shah, in a meeting on Yesterday, directed National Highway Authority (NHA) Chairman Shahid Tarar to hold a departmental inquiry into the source of leakages and suggest measures to plug them.

The increasing traffic on national highways and motorways, which was putting extra burden on infrastructure, was not proportionately reflected in revenues, said Shah while reviewing the revenue collection from toll plazas across the country.

Out of 103 toll plazas, only eight are electronically monitored and leakages from these junctures were too glaring. "There is a need to check massive leakages, which are going on in connivance with NHA staff," he said.

In the last fiscal year 2012-13, total revenues from toll plazas remained at the previous year's level of Rs13.4 billion despite the addition of a plaza, according to Tarar.

He said during the first half of the current fiscal year, total revenues stood at Rs6.6 billion despite addition of three plazas to the pool of 100.

In the last fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, gross toll collection from the three motorways fell 2.5% to Rs3.2 billion despite about 8% increase in traffic. The major contribution of Rs2.2 billion came from M-2 (Islamabad-Lahore) motorway. In the first half of the current fiscal year, the NHA collected Rs1.4 billion and indications were that it would not be able to achieve full-year target of Rs3.7 billion.

In reply to a question, NHA officials conceded that sometimes contracts were awarded below the reserve price. The director general of the Auditor General of Pakistan disclosed revenue losses of about Rs900 million due to award of toll collection contracts at rates lower than reserve prices.

Despite massive slippages, the NHA was again considering increasing toll tax rates to enhance revenue generation. Toll rates were revised three years ago and would be revised again this year, said Tarar.

He said revenue streams were not sufficient to maintain the network of 12,131 kilometres and the NHA wanted to plug loopholes and rationalise prices for improving revenues.

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