White elephant: Watchdog brings up 10 yrs of ‘hidden’ local govt audits

Auditor General says most district nazims did not allow reports to be presented.

Hafeez Tunio August 03, 2011


One of the biggest white elephants for local government is the question: why has there been no accountability for the money they spent from 2001? The good news is that audit reports of the district governments for these ten years were prepared. They just need to be made public.

Sindh’s accounting watchdog, the Sindh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee or PAC, discussed this on Wednesday. Its officials wondered why no one has discussed the audits so far.

PAC’s chairman, Jam Tamachi Unar, has decided to write to the governor, who had the reports, with the request to hand them to the committee so that it may go through them. “It is our equal responsibility to look into the accounts of local government as well,” he said, adding that he would take it up with the chief minister.

According to the local government laws, every district government has to undergo an audit and present it to the district accounts committee. But since 2001, only six out of 183 reports have been presented. “In a majority of cases, the district nazims did not allow audit reports to be laid before the zila accounts committee,” said a report by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Legally, the Public Accounts Committee can look into the annual accounts or audits of the Auditor General of Pakistan, who submits his findings to the federal and provincial governments. The reports are then sent to the PAC through either the president or governor.

The watchdog’s basic job is to scrutinise whether government offices used their funding for the specified jobs.  This spending has run into the billions of rupees. Sindh Director General of Audits, Najam ul Saqib Siddiqi, explained that Sindh’s money is divided - 45% goes to the provincial government and 55% to the district governments (e.g. the CDGK that ran Karachi).

And for anyone who tries to argue that now the province is run under the commissioner system, they need to know that the old Sindh Local Government Ordinance of 2001 has simply been replaced by SLGO 1979. This still means that the PAC can tackle the audit reports.

Government flats

In Wednesday’s discussion, the committee took up the case of government housing which surfaced in the 2006 to 2009 audit of the Services General Administration and Coordination Department (SGA&CD).  There is a problem because government flats have not been allotted to the proper people.

“Most of the employees have retired, but their families are not willing to evacuate the flats,” said Unar. “There should be a committee to look into the matter.” Many deserving government employees have been waiting to get a house.

The DG of Audits pointed out that government bungalows and flats were allotted to outside people instead of the staff of the secretariat. “The government accommodation could have been allotted to the secretariat’s staff,” he said. Instead, they are renting private houses and the government is reimbursing them to the tune of Rs17 million per year.

In response, SGA&CD Secretary Muhammad Wasim explained that the accommodation was allotted to civil servants posted in Karachi on humanitarian grounds. He said that in some cases, they were trying to have the flats evacuated, but these civil servants have gone to court, which has given a decision in their favour. (See related story ‘Slain top jailor’s son fights to keep government house’ on page 15).

The committee also brought up the missing records for Rs77.44 million. Among other items, the SGA&CD had bought jammers worth Rs25 million but the paperwork was not produced during the audit. The secretary responded by saying that the jammers were necessary for VVI P movement and were bought with approval from the “competent authority”. During the meeting, a total 21 audit paras or points for the he SGA&CD were discussed out of which the comittee settled 10 points and deferred the rest.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.