ISLAMABAD: In a rare move that may put the authorities concerned in a difficult situation, the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday refused to hold meetings until the government appoints a new auditor general of Pakistan.
“The PAC meeting is adjourned till the time the position of the AGP is filled in a manner defined in the Constitution of Pakistan,” said PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Shah before calling off the committee meeting.
The meeting had been convened to discuss audit objections on the accounts of the Ministry of National Food Security and the Ministry of Water and Power.
Former AGP Rana Assad Amin retired last week after attaining the age of 65 years – the maximum age limit set for the post of the AGP. He had remained in the office for 22 months.
The government has yet to appoint a new AGP nor has it given an acting charge to the senior most officer of the Audit and Accounts Service Group from the Organisation, as defined in the Constitution.
Unlike in the case of Rana Assad Amin’s predecessor who had been sent home by the PAC through the Supreme Judicial Council, the PAC appreciated the services of Amin.
“The Ministry of Finance has sent a summary to the Prime Minister for my appointment as acting AGP,” said Haq Nawaz, the additional AGP and the senior most officer of the Audit Group serving in the office of the AGP.
However, Nawaz is also going to retire by the end of this month after attaining the age of superannuation.
Railways Secretary Parveen Agha and Shagufta Khanam are the senior most officers of the Audit Group but both women are not currently serving in the organisation. However, their names are under consideration for the appointment as permanent AGP.
Some retired and serving officers of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) Group are also aspiring for the prestigious constitutional post.
“Article 168 of the Constitution governs the office of the AGP and no one can claim to be an acting AGP without administering the oath of office from the chief justice of Pakistan,” said Syed Naveed Qamar of the PPP.
“At any time when the office of the Auditor General is vacant or the Auditor General is absent or is unable to perform the functions of his office due to any cause, the president may appoint the most senior officer in the Office of the Auditor General to act as Auditor General and perform the functions of that office,” states Article 168(6) of the Constitution.
Shah observed that in the absence of an AGP, who should be appointed as per conditions defined in the Constitution, the PAC does not have legal and moral authority to hold meetings.
The department of the AGP is responsible for ensuring public accountability and fiscal transparency. Parliament exercises its control over the federal government through the AGP, making the post very critical for any government.
The new AGP will supervise the audit of accounts of the federal government which, as per practice, is carried out by field offices. The Public Accounts Committee is at the moment discussing the accounts for FY2013-14.
The department of the AGP has already presented the reports for FY2014-15 and reports for FY2015-16 are being prepared. This means that the new AGP would supervise the audit of the last two years of the PML-N government – FY2015-16 and FY2016-17.
In addition, he would represent the department on the reports that have already been tabled in parliament but not discussed. The opinion of the AGP carries huge weight during PAC meetings.
Due to this, the government is taking more time to appoint a permanent AGP and has decided to fill the post as a stop-gap arrangement, said sources in the finance ministry.
Meanwhile,the Ministry of Finance notified on Tuesday Haq Nawaz, the additional AGP, as acting AGP till the appointment of a regular AGP.