The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) collected Rs411 million in form fees from passport applicants between 2007 and 2013 without the approval of the finance ministry and the central bank, according to the Auditor General of Pakistan’s report for 2013-14.
The bank continues to charge applicants even though the AGP’s office has termed the charges “irregular”.
In 1975, the finance ministry and the State Bank of Pakistan decided that citizens applying for new passports and visas would pay the National Bank of Pakistan Rs1 as fee. In 1986, the charges were increased to Rs2 for each application. The interior ministry later increased the charges to Rs25.
The AGP’s report states that the increase was made without the concurrence of the finance ministry and the State Bank of Pakistan and termed the charges irregular.
The report criticises the charges as “extending undue favour to NBP” without the formal approval from the relevant authorities.
This issue was earlier raised in a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in November, 2012. The interior ministry was asked to take action. The PAC also directed the principal accounting officer to seek a response from the NBP regarding the charges, to fix responsibility for the irregularity and to put an end to the levy.
The committee also directed the directorate of immigration and passports and the interior ministry to conduct an independent inquiry on the matter in coordination with the finance ministry and submit a report in 20 days.
But no one complied with the orders. The AGP’s report observes that neither the ministry nor the department had taken action on the PAC’s directives. “Rather the irregularity still continues.”
Separately, the auditor general observed that the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Islamabad used Rs4 million from the secret service fund during 2012-13.
However, there were no cash books, vouchers, contingent registers or any shred of evidence regarding the disbursement of the amount.
The auditors observed that Rs3.3 million was paid to an unidentified entity with no mention of the names of recipients, their CNIC numbers or acknowledgement of receipt. At least Rs0.75 million was paid to zonal offices and directors without supplementary records. The auditors could not authenticate these expenses in the absence of records.
The report says that the office of Islamabad Capital Territory’s inspector general used Rs1.5 million from secret service funds during 2012-13 but did not maintain records, cash books or bank statements as required by the Finance Division.
“Non-maintenance of records of secret service funds and the transfer of funds to other officers was irregular and unauthorised,” the AGP’s report says.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2014.
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