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Wednesday Jan 01 2020
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Government adds additional clause on immovable properties in NAB ordinance

Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: In a surprise move, the government has added an additional clause relating to valuation of immovable properties in the recent introduced amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, The News reported on Wednesday.

The provision says, “Notwithstanding anything contained in this ordinance (containing amendments) or any other law for the time being in force, the valuation of immovable properties for the purposes of assessing as to whether a holder of a public office has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income shall be reckoned either according to the applicable rate prescribed by the district collector (DC) or the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), whichever is higher. No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible.”

To better explain this one needs to first understand the difference between the rates of properties, stipulated by the DC, FBR and the prevailing market. Of them, the market price is always the highest followed by the FBR and the DC.

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A real estate dealer, told the publication said that the FBR price is usually used in most urban centres, while the DC rate is applied to the rural areas. In some cases, both rates have been enforced, he said.

To further explain his point, he said, the FBR rate has been set for the urban properties of Islamabad, while its surrounding rural areas which fall under the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) are covered by the DC rate.

Due to ongoing FBR’s drive against the real estate sector to document the largely unregulated economy, buyers and purchasers have disclosed low real prices due to a fear of law. However, the prices are much higher than the FBR rate.

The publication reported that in multiple probes of assets beyond known sources of income, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) estimated the value of properties beyond the market rate to blow up the charge against the accused persons. The present scheme is believed to determine the real estate prices on the lower side.

The new clause discounts the price mentioned by the real estate owners in the registries or other documents on stamp papers, deposited with concerned departments, even if it is found to be higher than FBR and DC rates.

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“Such payments are always made through cheques, pay orders or bank drafts, but these most authentic documents and modes are not acceptable according to the new amendment about the valuation of properties,” a senior official, who critically examined the amendments, told The News.

It is unclear if any segment of the society had ever demanded that the valuation of the properties under probe should be fixed as per the formula introduced by the new clause. The clause is also interesting because such a recommendation was also not recommended by the federal secretaries’ committee.

“The clause about valuation of the assets has not thus far attracted public attention or debate, is tailor-made to benefit some people who are currently facing the NAB inquest for having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income,” the official believed.

No official explanation has been given for insertion of this provision. But, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar has said that the purpose of the amendments is “rationalisation” of the NAB law. 

Originally published in The News