The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday asked the office of the auditor general to undertake a performance audit of the $350 million Access to Justice Programme and questioned the perks and special protocols available to the judges.
The move shows that the government has intensified its campaign against the judiciary, apparently to get back at the Supreme Court. His doing this for convicting the prime minister of disobeying its orders to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen alleged corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
In another move, the government appointed former law minister Afzal Sindhu as member PAC to help the inexperienced PAC chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan, another hardcore PPP loyalist.
The decision of performance audit of the project, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB,) was taken after a briefing on the Access to Justice Programme by the law ministry. Chan asked the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan to complete the performance audit within two months.
The programme began in 2001 and Pakistan obtained $350 million loan from the ADB with the stated objective of implementing legislative, judicial, police and administrative reforms to strengthen the justice system in the country. The programme was simultaneously started at the centre and the four provinces. A number of complaints of corruption and misuse of funds have been reported with regard to the programme in the past.
Of $350 million (around Rs33 billion at the present exchange rate), $132 million were to be spent by the federal government and the remaining $198 million by the provinces. So far two-thirds of the funds had been spent, according to the law ministry’s presentation.
The ministry further stated that the project was mainly aimed at ensuring better transparency and accountability in the performance of the judiciary and the police so as to enable them to provide “speedy justice to the poor.”
Afzal Sindhu questioned transparency in the use of funds and asked the law ministry to present a list of people who have been running the project.
“The project was initiated for the poor but no reference to the poor was made in the presentation,” observed Chan. Official connected with the project could not give satisfactory answers to questions about improvement in providing speedy justice to people despite spending millions of borrowed dollars.
The office of the Auditor General told the PAC that law minister Farooq H Naek had desired the audit of the project. “According to our observations as many as 20 issues have been highlighted in our audit report,” said Federal Director General Audit Asif Rehman.
“Why so much money is required to perform a job which is the basic responsibility of the judiciary,” said MQM MNA Waseem Akhtar.
Another PPP parliamentarian, Noor Alam Khan, objected to giving Rs600,000 monthly salary to a judge of the Supreme Court. On Khan’s question, Law Secretary Yasmin Abbasey said that a judge of the Supreme Court gets Rs600,000 monthly salary in addition to perks such as fuel, house, telephone and medical allowances.
Alam also criticised the practice of blocking traffic when a judge of the Supreme Court moves. “Through the ministry I want to tell the Chief Justice of Pakistan that blocking roads for judges’ movement is illegal,” asserted Khan.
He also raised the question of how many judges have been convicted of corruption. but no one was there to give a satisfactory answer to him.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.
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