Following pleas by journalists, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Auditor General of Pakistan to carry out an audit of special publicity funds spent on journalists and some organisations, whose names were made public by the court through a list revealed on the official website.
The bench issued notices to the information minister’s secretary after six journalists maintained that their names had been wrongly placed in List-A issued by the information ministry showing records of spending worth Rs178 million spent from July 2011 to September 2012.
The three-judge bench of the court headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja directed Dr Asifur Rehman and Director General (DG) Federal Audit to complete the audit in three weeks and submit the report.
Why put up a list?
“The official website of the Supreme Court is not a gossip column like any social website”, said advocate Asma Jahangir who questioned the decision of placing the list on the official website of the Supreme Court.
“Should the people not know where their money is being spent?” retorted Justice Khawaja, adding the list was made public after receiving certification from the secretary and a director of the information ministry.
The information ministry lists some names incorrectly, said Advocate Jahangir in response. She asked judges not to “suffocate the court with self-righteousness” and said that the court should also make its own expenditures public.
To this, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja replied the expenditure of Supreme Court was being regularly audited, but the funds used by the information ministry under ‘secret funds’ had not been subjected to audit.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that List-B, which is to be released soon, does not contain the names of any journalists.
Journalists who approached the Supreme Court to challenge the website records include Rameeza Nizami, Munizae Jahangir, Fariha Idrees, Rauf Klasra, Pervaiz Shaukat and Shakeel Turabi.
Journalists Hamid Mir and Absar Alam had filed a petition last year asking the court to direct the information ministry make its secret funds public.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2013.
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