SUKKUR: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) can swoop down on corrupt officers anywhere in the country, be it any province or even the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The bureau formed under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 has mandate across the country, said its Sukkur division's director-general Mohammad Altaf Bawany in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
He was referring to the recent statement of Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah who insisted that NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency don’t have the power to interfere in provincial matters. "According to NAO 1999, we are empowered to operate throughout the country against corrupt government officials and even private persons," he said.
Bawany denied that the NAB is used as a tool to teach a lesson to political rivals. The provisions of NAO 1999 are very clear, he said. "The president will appoint the NAB chairperson for a period of four years after consulting the leader of the House and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly," he pointed out.
NAB does not only act upon individual complaints against a person holding a public office but its chairperson can also take suo-motu notice, explained Bawany, adding that it can also direct the relevant office to initiate an inquiry against any officer.
The bureau can keep an accused person in custody for 90 days while the accountability courts can grant them remands of up to 15 days at times. Any person can make a direct complaint to NAB as long as they submit an affidavit to the effect, explained Bawany. In case of an incorrect complaint that is aimed at misguiding the agency, the person has to undergo one-year imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs500,000, he added.
On the question of plea bargain, Bawany explained that after the recovery of state money and assets, the accused is not given a clean chit. "Rather he is deemed a convict and becomes ineligible to hold a public office for a period of 10 years," he said. Since its establishment in 1999 and until December 2014, NAB has managed to recover nearly Rs264 billion of embezzled money, pointed out Bawany, adding that their expenses since that time till January this year have been Rs10.6 billion. They have been allocated a total of Rs12.5 billion so far.
NAB in Sukkur
In Sukkur, NAB decided to open its offices as people had to travel to Karachi to lodge complaints. It was time consuming and cost a lot of money, said Bawany. Hence the bureau opened its offices in Sukkur with jurisdiction over three divisions — Sukkur, Larkana and Nawabshah.
Bawany recalled that most of the complaints are against the taluka municipal administration, the irrigation, and works and services departments. "So far, we have received around 1,000 complaints between January and May this year," he said. As far as the establishment of an accountability court in Sukkur is concerned, Bawany went on to say that it will be operational soon. The accountability court never grants bail to the accused and therefore they move to the higher courts to get bail.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.