ISLAMABAD: The tussle for the top auditor spot heated up on Wednesday after Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), dissolved all sub-committees of the powerful parliamentary watchdog in a protest over the appointment of Akhtar Buland Rana as Auditor-General of Pakistan (AGP).
Khan took the extreme step after the government signalled on Tuesday morning to replace him with a PPP loyalist.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s information secretary, Qamar Zaman Kaira, is being tipped as the new chairman of the PAC, provided either the committee members oust Khan through a vote or he resigns himself, as he had recently indicated.
The slot of chairman PAC was given to the opposition leader under the Charter of Democracy, signed by the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) before the 2008 elections.
The politicking in the parliamentary watchdog comes at a time when the body is about to take up audit reports that have highlighted billions of rupees worth of financial irregularities and embezzlements in government departments.
Audit reports about the rental power plants, hajj corruption and allotment of plots to powerful bureaucrats are among the cases taken up by the audit department under former AGP Syed Tanvir Ali Agha.
Govt ‘disrupting’ PAC
According to a handout, Chairman PAC dissolved the sub committees because the government was ‘creating hurdles in implementation of the PAC decisions.’
The appointment of Rana has exposed the government’s motives to hinder the working of the ‘most effective committee’ of parliament, the handout added.
While some experts term the dissolution of the panels an end to the ‘proactive role’ the PAC was playing, there are others who criticise the PAC for its inability to take action against influential people. Since November 2008, the PAC has recovered Rs115 billion.
Musharraf era audit ends
With the dissolution of two sub-committees and an implementation and monitoring committee, the audit of Pervez Musharraf era has come to a halt. The chairman had constituted two sub-committees to consider audit reports pertaining to the period between 2001 and 2007.
He had also constituted the implementation and monitoring committee to ensure implementation of the PAC decisions.
The PAC-II, headed by Zahid Hamid of PML-N was considering audit reports from 2001 to 2003 while the PAC-III, headed by Yasmeen Rehman of the PPP, was studying the audit reports from 2004 to 2007. The implementation committee was tracking the audit reports of last 17 years.
The PML-N bitterly opposed Rana’s appointment, dubbing him a ‘crony’ of the government and a ‘loyal friend’ of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Rana has faced serious corruption allegations in the past and is among 18 officials who hold dual nationailities.
According to a source, even the Establishment Division recently moved a file suggesting ‘routine assignment’ for Rana, in view of his track record.
“The office of the AGP should not be controversial and if there are serious allegations against the newly-appointed AGP, the government should hold his oath-taking until he is acquitted from all charges,” said head of PAC-III, Yasmeen Rehman.
Replacing Khan with Kaira
The PPP members of the PAC have launched a move to get rid of Khan and bring in Kaira, the former federal information minister, sources say.
Kaira, who attended a sub-committee meeting as a ‘special invitee,’ was behaving like a chairman, said a committee member,
He hijacked committee proceedings and insulted the audit officials, the member added.
Kaira was recently appointed a member of main PAC as well. Many saw his appointment as an attempt to disrupt the smooth functioning of the PAC.
A ruling party member ruled out reconciliation between the PPP and the PML-N, citing the extreme positions taken by both sides. Khan is expected to convene a meeting of the PAC after Eid holidays, whereby the fate of the main committee would be determined as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.