ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has turned down a proposal of involving the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) and provincial governments in a special audit of mega transport projects and has decided to hand over the task to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a bid to determine the level of finances and subsidies involved.
Big transport projects were undertaken by the previous administration of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Punjab’s capital Lahore and other cities with funding from China. According to officials aware of the development, any findings by the FIA regarding omission and commission could worry Beijing that provided vital financing for the schemes.
In a recent cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, some participants proposed that the AGP and relevant provincial governments should undertake a special audit of mega transport projects, executed by the PML-N government during its 2013-2018 tenure, but the suggestion was rejected.
Instead, the cabinet decided to entrust FIA with the task of conducting a forensic audit of the projects. These projects include Orange Line Metro Train and Orange Line Metro Bus in Lahore, Multan Metro Bus and Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus. The Green Line Bus Rapid Transit project in Karachi and the Peshawar Rapid Transit project, which was executed by the PTI government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, were also included.
During the meeting, it was pointed out that the PML-N administration in the centre had initiated several mega projects which involved high capital outlays and put a heavy cost on the national exchequer.
It was noted that many of the projects faced public scrutiny after different quarters raised concern over the use of huge financial resources for implementing such schemes. The question of transparency also surfaced.
Some cabinet members suggested that audit findings should be shared with the respective entities and general public within 60 days. Approval was sought for conducting the special audit of all urban mass transit systems in the country.
The cabinet members underscored the need for gathering accurate, reliable and up-to-date information about the mega projects.
Apart from this, they said, a statutory audit should be undertaken, if it had not been conducted already, along with audit by an external auditor to determine the extent of liabilities and subsidies extended for running the projects. Lastly, the FIA should conduct a forensic audit of the projects.
After comprehensive discussions, the meeting participants decided to task the Finance Division with collecting reliable and latest information about the capital cost of various urban mass transit projects and financial and recurring liabilities including the subsidy.
It was also decided that the premier would issue directives to the FIA for undertaking a comprehensive forensic audit of the projects.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2018.