Taking it back: ACE recovers a healthy Rs1.6bn in 20 months

More money than what the department collected in 25 years before that

Muhammad Sadaqat March 17, 2016

PESHAWAR: Anti-Corruption Establishment Director General Ziaullah Khan Toru says his department has recovered Rs1.6 billion from corrupt officials even with the odds stacked against the authority. Money has even been recovered from lawmakers and over 3,600 cases of corruption are being probed across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Talking to The Express Tribune at his office on Tuesday, Toru says the authority is understaffed and lacks proper facilities if compared to other departments mandated with eradicating corruption. However, the output, he claims, is nothing short of remarkable. He said this was highest amount of money recovered in such a timeframe in the 45-year history of the body.

“We recovered Rs1.6 billion over 20 months, but ACE’s previous records show it could only recover Rs340.7 million between 1970 and 2014,” he says. He adds 1,160 cases are being registered against corrupt officials from Grade-17 to 21 and some lawmakers. In February 2016, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa issued a report sharing it recovered around Rs2.5 billion during 2014-15.

Toru stops short of naming the legislators from whom money was recovered after cases were filed. He adds a former provincial minister is facing corruption charges and is likely to be taken in for interrogation within the coming days.

Short staffed

He says the authority has been facing a shortage of staff since its establishment. He claims only 20% of the required workforce has hands on deck.

However, he points out the K-P chief minister recently approved an increase to Rs490 million from Rs140 million for the current fiscal year, while 254 new posts were created from constable to assistant director.

This has been approved in the first phase; the next stage will see all ACE’s police stations shift into their own buildings across the province.

To a question, Toru admits to shortcomings when dealing with the law specifically related to eradicating corruption. ACE is going to set up its own prosecution branch from the next fiscal year and the director general believes this will increase the currently dissatisfactory conviction rate.

An inside job

About making ACE itself corruption free, he reveals the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has been made responsible for not only keeping a check on ACE officials, but also for conducting surgical strikes based on intelligence reports.

Toru maintains dozens of enquiries are underway against ACE officials and four of them have been sent back to their parent police department on charges of misconduct. “If we have zero tolerance for others when it comes to corruption, we have to ensure [the same policy] is practically enforced at the department,” he asserts. Toru expresses dissatisfaction over the past performance of his department. “All I can do is to seek pardon from the people for previous mistakes,” he says.

Discussing capacity building at ACE, the director general says officers are being provided with one month training at the Pakistan Air Force and later international academies so they can apply modern methodologies to apprehend white collar criminals. He says the establishment is looking for forensic experts of the FIA and NAB to ensure the process is foolproof.

He estimates 90% of the public faces problems with the health, revenue, education and other departments.

For Toru, the K-P government’s proposed Whistleblowers Act is “a game changer”, adding it will practically involve the general public and offer a reward of 25% of the recovered money. He reiterates the law will also provide security to the informers.

Toru says NAB, Ehtesab Commission and ACE are all working for the same purpose, but in different domains and there is no conflict between the three. “ACE is supposed to work at the grass-roots level and has the mandate of offering assistance to NAB when needed,” said \toru. He adds the department has referred several cases to NAB on their request.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2016.


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