The Punjab government has been sitting since 2003-04 on reports pointing to Rs170 billion in financial irregularities in local governments, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Documents available with The Tribune reveal that the auditor general’s (AG) office has prepared 472 reports containing 17,454 audit para which point out financial irregularities involving Rs149 billion in district government and Rs21 billion in tehsil municipal administrations (TMAs) and union councils.
Despite repeated reminders from the AG office, the government is yet to set up ad-hoc district accounts committees to take up the reports.
The committees have not been created despite the passing of two years since the Punjab Assembly passed an amendment in the Local Government Ordinance granting the government the mandate to do so.
Documents available with The Tribune reveal that the AG office has spent Rs520 million on the preparation of local government audit reports since 2003-2004.
In a letter available to this publication, the AG’s office has reminded the Punjab government that “it is mandatory that all audit paras be discussed in accounts committees.”
“However, there is still no progress on convening these (ad-hoc district accounts) committees. The AG’s office desires that a committee should be formed to expedite the matter,” the letter says.
Speaking to The Tribune, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Chaudhry Zaheeruddin said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led government should have frozen local government spending if the law to create accounts committees did not exist.
“They should have also moved the amendment earlier,” he said.
“Not a single para has been presented even after the permission to form the ad hoc committees was granted,” said Zaheer. Asked why, as PAC chairman, he did not expedite the matter of holding the DAC meetings on the paras, Zaheer said that he had pressed the PML-N government to take the paras to DACs but received no response.
“The PAC cannot initiate action on its own until the audit paras are forwarded to it from the DAC,” he said.
Local Government Parliamentary Secretary Abdul Razzaq Dhillon said that the local government secretary should have moved to initiate the process to form ad-hoc DACs. He said that the last full-time minister for local government was Dost Mohammad Khosa, who held the office till June 2010.
“Since then, the department has fallen directly under the CM and was later transferred to Rana Sanaullah, neither of which were full-time local government ministers,” Dhillon said. “My own work is limited to inside the assembly but I will raise the matter in the next party meeting,” he said. Speaking to The Tribune, Local Government Secretary Khizer Hayat Gondal said, “I am aware of the AG’s reports. The reason we could not take up the paras for discussion was that no forum was available.”
He said that the reports will be taken up after the ad-hoc committees are constituted. Asked why the provision allowing ad-hoc committees had not been used yet, Gondal said, “Ad-hoc accounts committees were not made earlier due to political and administrative reasons.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.
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