ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been requested to bar the government from appointing a new Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) with political affiliation amid reports that the finance ministry mulls filling the post with a candidate from the private sector.
The request has been made through a constitutional petition filed by a former official of the Audit and Accounts Service – the civil services group that claims an undisputed right over the lucrative constitutional post.
The petition names president, prime minister, secretaries of finance and Establishment Division as well as other constitutional state organs as respondents.
The petition emphasises the need for appointing someone with appropriate knowledge of audit and accounts, pleading that the country’s financial system would, otherwise, be in a mess. It says that appointing an unqualified individual would be for covering up the “government’s financial misdeeds”.
Attaining the age of 65, Rana Assad Amin retired as AGP on April 8. Instead of making a permanent appointment, the government named additional AGP Haq Nawaz as acting AGP. However, Nawaz also retired within two weeks of his appointment.
And now for two months, Imran Iqbal has been serving as acting AGP. The government has yet to make a permanent appointment and is running an important constitutional office on ad hoc basis without citing any valid reason.
AGP performs highly sensitive state functions, while parliament also exercises its control over the government through the same office.
The government, an official said, was considering bringing in someone from the private sector, adding that there was no constitutional bar on such an appointment.
“Article 168 of the Constitution that governs the Office of the AGP states ‘there shall be an Auditor General of Pakistan who shall be appointed by President’,” said the official.
According to Article 168(6) of the Constitution, at any time the AGP office is vacant or AGP is absent or unable to perform the functions of his office due to any reason, 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.
A summary had been sent to the finance ministry to appoint one of the senior most officers of the Audit and Accounts Service as new AGP.
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.
Some retired officers of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) Group are also aspiring for the prestigious post.
However, the finance ministry has not yet sent a summary to the Prime Minister for appointing the new head of the department.
The new AGP would supervise the audit of the past two years of the PML-N government – FY2015-16 and FY2016-17.
Moreover, he would represent the department on reports already presented in parliament, but not discussed. The AGP’s opinion carries a huge weight during the PAC meetings.
The government is, therefore, understood to be looking for a trustworthy individual as new AGP.