Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia for the first time on Friday admitted that the technology failed a smooth transition from the previous indirect tax regime to the Goods and Service Tax. He was referring to Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) which was set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the GST. The Secretary, however, later clarified that it does not mean that the people who work there (at GSTN) aren't doing their job.
Finance Secretary Adhia said: "Since we had to meet a certain deadline, we needed to hurry up the process. Somewhere, I made a reference about the technology failing us but that does not mean that the people in the GSTN failed us. Marvellous people work in the GSTN and despite their efforts, the GSTN still fails us." He was speaking at a session on 'One Year Journey of GST' organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
The GST was rolled out last year on July 1. Recently, FICCI conducted a survey of enterprises on completion of one year of GST and their experience post-GST implementation. According to the survey, 59 per cent of the respondents mentioned that they were not satisfied with the capability of the GSTN portal. In fact, 96 per cent respondents felt that improvements were required in the working of the portal. Respondents of the survey pointed out issues with the robustness and volume handling capacity of the GST Portal. Problems like delayed reflection of updated data as well as payments, absence of effective mechanism to resolve issues, inability to make corrections after submission of returns in case of errors were highlighted.
Earlier, Telangana Principal Secretary (Commercial Taxes and Excise) Somesh Kumar, too, raised certain technological glitches in the GST network that need to be resolved. He said: ''Though there are issues and concerns like invoice- matching which was one of the highlights of GST, the GST network has not been able to provide this facility. We also want to do lot of data analytics in Telangana but we do not get the full data as we would like from the GSTN." Somesh Kumar further said that "if there is any criticism of GST it is not on GST per se, it is on GSTN network, and its inability to respond to various problems".
The business community and opposition parties have been raising these technological issues for a very long time. But this is the first time when senior government officials are coming out and admitting them on record. Ahead of the GST roll-out, some political parties such as Congress and All India Trinamool Congress urged the government to defer the GST launch. TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a Facebook post said: "After demonetisation, this unnecessary disastrous hurry is another epic blunder of the Centre. We have been for GST from the beginning but are very worried now with the way the Central Government is going ahead with the implementation."
The oppositions' fear was justified as weeks before the GST deadline, Infosys had informed the Finance Ministry that they would not be in a position to put the computer programme necessary for the GSTN by July 1 therefore, it won't be rolled out. However, the government still went ahead with the scheduled launch.
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