Once praised for its untiring work, the audit department came under criticism, for the first time, here on Tuesday when the Public Accounts Committee found that the department was working hand in glove with corrupt elements.
In a meeting convened to discuss financial irregularities in the Ministry of Housing and Works, PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan noted that the audit department quietly tabled four audit objections involving Rs295.5 million for settlement without bringing these to the knowledge of the PAC.
In terms of the audit department, PAC discusses only those audit objections which are highlighted in the reports while there are numerous objections which the audit department sends for settlement without any discussion. However, PAC has the authority to even discuss objections which are recommended for settlement. But it usually does not take up such objections for discussion.
“How the AGP (Auditor General of Pakistan) can recommend objections for settlement despite knowing that there were losses to the exchequer,” asked Chan while expressing displeasure.
PAC directed Housing Secretary Kamran Lashari to initiate an inquiry and fix responsibility on those who caused losses to the exchequer. It also gave directives to Additional Auditor General Abbas Naki to proceed against those officials who recommended objections for settlement.
Since Akhtar Buland Rana has been appointed as the Auditor General of Pakistan, the performance of the audit department has been questioned. Rana avoids PAC meetings and often sends his deputy Naki to participate in the proceedings.
Rana is currently abroad and will return on June 29, said Deputy Auditor General Tahir Saeed.
According to the details, Pakistan Housing Authority suffered a loss of Rs140.9 million after making changes to the designs of housing schemes, approved during the second tenure of Mian Nawaz Sharif from 1997 to 1999. PAC also asked why the projects were started without approval of PC-I of the schemes.
The audit department also quietly sought settlement of another case relating to Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme, launched by former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif in 1999, and involving Rs103.2 million.
Despite clear violation of public procurement rules that led to a loss of Rs52.4 million in two different cases in 2005, the audit department did not highlight the objections for discussions. “It seems that the audit department has special sympathy for the housing ministry,” observed the PAC chairman.
PAC also gave June 25 deadline to the housing ministry for submitting details of those bureaucrats, judges and generals who got two plots at the expense of taxpayers. It also asked the housing ministry to produce the file carrying the order to give two plots to the bureaucrats.
“After going through the record, PAC will give its decision on allocating two plots each to the officials,” said Chan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.
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