The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday sought a report on the utilisation of $61 million allotted for human resource development in the bureaucracy – but which allegedly ended up financing “pleasure trips” of senior bureaucrats.
“This is the one poor country where millions of dollars are spent just on pleasure trips of bureaucrats,” PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan said of the expensive trips made under the pretext of training.
The $61 million World Bank loan for “capacity building” did not mention any clause which called for an assessment report on the impact of these training sessions. Thus, none of the bureaucrats felt the need to disclose what they learnt from some of the most reputed institutions in the world, admitted an official from the Establishment Division after being grilled by PAC members.
Of the $61 million, $26 million was at the disposal of the Establishment Division under the head of the Civil Servants Reforms Unit. The project was implemented from 2004 to 2009.
The PAC has asked the Establishment Division to submit a list of the bureaucrats who went on these trips along with details of the utilisation of funds and mark-up paid to the World Bank so far. The committee will take a decision after reviewing the details.
The issue of assessing the impact of these training programmes was first raised by PAC member Yasmeen Rehman.
Establishment Division Secretary Taimur Azmat Osman, however, said there was no need for assessment reports from bureaucrats after they returned from training. He added that, under the programme, 363 officers were sent on weeks-long courses to the United States.
While the bureaucracy found no reason to complain about the expenses incurred on these trips, the World Bank advised civil servants to look for foreign institutions in Australia and the Middle East as travelling to the US might be too costly.
The auditors have also unearthed another blatant discrepancy in the utilisation of the fund. Eight officials who went abroad to pursue degree programmes under the scheme did not submit their degrees because they had, in fact, not enrolled in the said programmes, resulting in a loss of Rs13.3 million to the national exchequer.
Of the eight, six officers, Shahzad Nawaz Cheema, Nauman Hafeez, Syed Hamid Ali, Samina Qureshi, Muhammad Abbas Khan and Khushdil Khan Malik, submitted diplomas instead of degrees, according to the auditors. The PAC has sought a refund of the amount spent by these officials.
However, there were some issues on which the PAC had to compromise. It settled an audit objection involving Rs1.6 million in outstanding dues against nine former members of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) on account of excessive salaries and benefits.
Despite clear PAC directives in 2010 to seek recovery of excessive payments and hold accountable those responsible for allowing them, the PAC agreed to settle the objection on the request of Auditor General of Pakistan Akhtar Buland Rana.
“The audit para was against a powerful class of the country and had to be settled,” said Chan with a tinge of sarcasm.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.
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