The report by the auditor general that they could not reconcile Rs323 billion in the accounts of the federal government is disturbing. The report says that the government cannot account for 15.5 per cent of a total federal budget of over Rs2,000 billion, an unacceptably high proportion.
While this does not necessarily mean that the money was misappropriated, the taxpayers of the country deserve accountability, especially since there are so few of them in the first place. It is discouraging that the largest amount of discrepancies were in the accounting of the Federal Board of Revenue, the entity responsible for the collection and disbursement of the government’s funds.
The current administration has made a largely unnoticed effort to increase transparency by posting information about its activities online, an effort that is laudable. Yet figures such as those released by the auditor general would dishearten even the most optimistic observer. How the government spends its money is one of the most important components of a democratic government. The lack of diligent accounting is in part what makes corruption possible and if the government cannot control it then all its anti-corruption efforts are doomed to come to nought.
If the government is to repair its already damaged credibility it must act swiftly. Pakistan’s international allies are reticent to assist the country financially when they do not know where the money is going. This report cannot help. Yet a public move on the part of the highest levels of the administration to rectify the problems would be a display not only of fiscal propriety but also political maturity. It would demonstrate that the government is willing to admit it has made a mistake and move to correct it. Such a display is urgently required if Pakistan is to regain credibility in the international arena.
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