ISLAMABAD: Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of sabotaging the parliament’s business after the secretary finance preferred to attend a meeting at the PM’s Office instead of appearing before the accountability watchdog.
The PAC Chairman Khusheed Shah, who is also leader of opposition in the National Assembly, deferred the business related to Secretary Finance Arif Ahmad Khan due to his absence from the meeting. He directed to recover expenses of the meeting from the pocket of Khan.
The PAC had summoned the secretary finance to seek a reply in a case of illegal transfer of billions of rupees funds from lapsable accounts to non-lapsable account and releasing of budget near the end of the fiscal year.
As the meeting began, the PAC additional secretary informed the committee that just half an hour ago, the secretary finance informed that he was unable to attend the PAC meeting. The additional secretary said Arif Ahmad Khan had gone to the PM’s Office to attend a meeting on the affairs of National Highway Authority (NHA).
The secretary finance’s absence infuriated the PAC chairman.
“The PAC being part of the parliament is above the prime minister and the PM’s decision to call the secretary finance is tantamount to sabotaging the parliament’s business,” said Shah.
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He directed the PAC Secretariat to convey the committee’s frustration to the PM, finance minister and secretary finance in writing.
During the tenure of the PPP (2008-2013), the then PAC chairman Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had enforced the PAC writ by ensuring that the secretaries of the ministries and the principal secretary to PM give preference to the PAC business over the other government business.
At that time, the secretary cabinet and the principal secretary to PM would skip the cabinet meeting but would appear before the PAC.
Shah said there was a decision by the federal cabinet that the PAC’s proceedings would take precedent over the government’s business. He said the committee wanted to bring transparency in use of the public funds and the PM was becoming a hurdle in its way.
Last week, the Auditor General of Pakistan had revealed before the PAC that the Ministry of Housing and Works illegally transferred Rs4.9 billion alone from a lapsable government account to a non-lapsable account during FY 2012-13, 2015-16 and 2016-17, through bogus documents. This had been done in connivance of the Secretary Finance and the practice was still going on.
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According to the Financial Rules, the budget approved by parliament goes to the Personal Ledger Account–I (PLA-I) of the respective ministries and departments. The surplus money that is deposited in PLA-I has to be returned to the treasury before the close of the fiscal year.
There is another account, PLA-IV, which is only meant for keeping money of gratuity and pension. The money that is in the PLA-IV can be retained even after the close of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30 every year.
According to the AGP, instead of surrendering the surplus funds issued for development projects to the treasury, the ministries were transferring the budget to PLA-IV by doing fake paperwork and issuing fake cheques. This matter will now be taken up in the next PAC meeting.
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