DoPT has raised objections to the cadre restructuring proposal of the Central Board of Excise and Customs
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has raised objections to the cadre restructuring proposal of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), delaying a resolution to the acute manpower crisis affecting the indirect tax administration, which is struggling to collect 20% more revenue from central excise, customs and service tax this year from a year ago. CBEC has a revenue target of Rs 5.6 lakh crore this fiscal, 46% of the Centre’s gross tax revenue.
The annual growth in indirect tax collections has come down sharply since 2011-12. It is reckoned that in addition to the economic slowdown, the CBEC’s human resource crunch has also hit the collection drive. CBEC’s demand for more secretary-level posts and field officers to bolster its revenue collection drive is now likely to be referred to a committee of secretaries or to a group of ministers for further review instead of being placed before the cabinet for approval as expected earlier.
With 68,000 personnel at different levels, CBEC has only two thirds of its sanctioned strength at present. The tax research unit (TRU), a vital part of the CBEC, has about 12 vacancies at the moment. Officers said vacancies that arise from retirement are not being filled because the cadre recast proposal aimed at adding another 20,000 personnel was under consideration.
“To meet the fiscal deficit target, it is desirable to raise revenue, not cut productive expenditure. If revenue collection lags, public borrowing goes up,” said a person familiar with the development. The Centre will borrow Rs 4.84 lakh crore (net) this fiscal.
What has triggered a review is DoPT’s questions on the proposal to promote non-IRS officers at the fag end of their career to IRS rank. CBEC had suggested creating about 4,000 temporary assistant commissioner-level posts to be filled by way of promoting group B (non-IRS) officers from the rank below.
Sources told FE that DoPT has pushed for creating more temporary AC posts to be filled through promotions will distort the government of India service rule that 50:50 ratio has to be maintained between directly recruited IRS officers (through the UPSC) and officers promoted from the cadre below.
The proposal was made by the Sixth Pay Commission heeding to the demands of group B non-IRS officers such as superintendents who join the service as inspectors but get only one promotion in their long careers. To avoid stagnation, they wanted the chance to retire as an IRS officer at the level of assistant commissioner.
“If we do not go ahead with the proposal, promotions from group B to group A will get affected. It will affect the aspirations of our group B officers. It is a ticklish issue that has cropped up now. If it goes to a group of ministers, a decision might take longer,” said an official privy to the development, who also held the DoPT’s view as a valid one needing careful handling.
The development is set to delay further the cadre restructuring of CBEC in the wake of the forthcoming national polls ahead of which a model code of conduct will limit the government’s ability to finalise and implement it.
Cadre restructuring proposal for the income tax department has already been notified and delays in the same for CBEC has put the indirect tax administration at a disadvantage. Sources said chief commissioners in the I-T department in large zones are designated as special secretaries now, unlike their counterparts in CBEC.
Also, unlike in the case of CBDT cadre recast, the Cabinet Secretariat had demanded an assurance from CBEC that it would meet the revenue targets for the year. Many field officers believe linking revenue collection performance with the cadre review was unfair. They also point out that senior officials in CBEC get secretary rank after putting in many more years in service than their counterparts in other central services.