The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has decided to move a reference to the Parliament against all audit-dodging departments that have refused to provide access to their accounts in violation of the Constitution.
Chairing the meeting of the Parliament’s most powerful accountability body, which met here on Thursday, Nadeem Afzal Chan said the reference will be moved on charges of deliberately violating the Constitution. The committee gave a last chance to the identified departments – unless they allow the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) access to their accounts within a week, their names will be sent to Parliament.
PAC’s legal wizard Zahid Hamid was unwilling to allow the one-week window even, saying it was a waste of time as those departments have refused access many times before.
PAC has not made it clear whether only the heads or the boards of these departments will be held responsible for subverting the Constitution, where decisions were taken by the boards.
There are roughly 16 government and semi-government organisations that are resisting the audit of their accounts. These include the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, National Press Trust, Virtual University Lahore, National Database and Registration Authority, Pakistan Ordnance Factories Welfare Trust, Pakistan Telecommunications Limited, Pak-China Investment Company, Defense Housing Authority and Frontier Works Organisation.
Under the Constitution, anybody that takes funds from the treasury or is owned or even established by the state will be subjected to an audit by the AGP.
NBP resists audit
Thursday’s proceedings made it clear that the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) will definitely be among those charged. The head of NBP’s legal department reiterated the bank’s prior stance in the meeting, maintaining that its accounts cannot be audited by the AGP. He claimed the law ministry also supported NBP’s stance.
However, the PAC made it clear that clause 170(2) of the Constitution, inserted through the 18th amendment, overrides all the acts which these departments were using to claim autonomy and resist the audit.
Additional AGP Tanveer Ahmad said that the NBP management was resisting the audit despite the finance ministry’s directives to the bank to allow access to the auditors. The committee also summoned the NBP president in the next meeting.
“NBP has every reason to hide the accounts … an audit of its asset portfolio will reveal that the bank could collapse,” said PAC member Khawaja Asif.
NBP is also facing allegations of providing jobs to the relatives of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials. Sources told The Express Tribune that a former FIA director-general was also pressuring the NBP management to hire his brother as the bank’s vice-president.
PAC to approach PM against FBR
PAC has also decided to write a letter to the prime minister complaining against the non-cooperative attitude of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Despite numerous meetings, the committee has been unable to decide the fate of 65 audit objections due to the non-cooperation of FBR authorities.
In a meeting on September 27, FBR Inland Revenue Member Ijaz Hussain Shah had pledged that if he failed to resolve at least 80% outstanding cases, he be held responsible personally. Shah remained absent in Thursday’s meeting, however, citing health issues.
The committee did not accept the excuse and sought a medical certificate and the details of his daily routine.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2012.
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