PAC for audit of funds released to security agencies

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Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Tuesday endorsed the demand of Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) for holding an audit of government funds released to the secret security agencies.

The AGP argued that his office had carried out an audit of secret funds, but the authority was withdrawn through invoking the AGP Ordinance 2013.

He said that his office’s request to the IB for audit was turned down on grounds that it could not hold audit under the Audit Ordinance. The Ministry of Law and Attorney General of Pakistan Office had same recommendations, he added.

Quoting a Supreme Court’s judgement, he said the apex court permitted AGP to hold audit of any government organisation. The committee directed the AGP to take the matter to the apex court. He further disclosed that no public sector bank was ready for audit by the AGP; therefore, it is ready to take the matter to the court.Syed Khursheed Shah chaired the meeting of the PAC and the committee examined the audit reports of Ministry of Port and Shipping for the financial year 2013-14.

The officials of Ministry of Ports and Shipping informed the committee that Karachi Fish Harbor Authority (KFHA) was not fully functional and operative. A summary had been submitted before the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) to convert a Rs 600 million loan taken by KFHA into grant aid as newly established authority was not in a position to retire the debt at this stage, the officials maintained.

Secretary Fisheries said the EU has not lifted the ban on the export of fisheries products from Pakistan due to prevailing unhygienic conditions of fisheries boards and fishery houses. In a briefing, the officials said the fishing sector is one per cent of GDP. Fishery exports stood at Rs 300 million. Issuance of licences for fisheries is banned till a new policy is approved. The KFHA has 82 boats for surveillance.

The officials of Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) said that six Chinese fishery trollers at the Karachi port are waiting in queue for fishery licences. The board of KFHA is yet to be constituted and no board member has been nominated till now. The secretary Ministry of Fisheries revealed before the committee that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif constituted a committee headed by Minister for Fisheries, which would resolve the pending issues of the fishery sector in consultation with the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan, and other stakeholders.

The committee directed chief secretaries Sindh and Balochistan, federal secretary climate change and secretary commerce to appear before the committee on January12, 2017 with their proposals for up-gradation and innovation in fisheries sector. The committee deferred examining a court case against 10 years’ outstanding rent dues of Port Qasim’s land. The officials filed the lawsuit to recover an estimated Rs 200 million in 10 years.

The committee chairman observed that cases are in courts for recovery of approximately Rs 450 billion of national exchequer. He said that the court cases should be pursued through qualified lawyers. While examining the audit objections of Ministry of Interior, the secretary interior informed the committee that a government bank has been charging Rs 23 as servicing charging on passport fee illegally. He explained that no approval for applying the charge on passport fee was sought from the government. The audit officials said that Rs 400 million was received from the people as servicing charge.

In his ruling, the chairman committee said that government bank should collect passport fee without any charges. The chairman further suggested that private commercial banks should also be permitted to collect passport fee. The director general passports told the committee that Rs 22billion revenue was generated through issuance of 4.5 million passports in the current year.

Member Committee Shafqat Mahmood asked Chairman NADRA about a proposal, which allows parliamentarians to verify documents of ‘Pashtuns’ for computerised national identity cards (CNICs).

The Chairman Nadra said that various options to unblock the CNICs are under consideration including verification of CNIC holders by the parliamentarians. Shafqat Mahmood urged that the parliamentarians are political people and have no tool to check the authenticity of CNIC holders’ documents. Another Member PAC Mahmood Khan Achakzai said it is a criminal offence to cancel one’s nationality. The government has no authority to cancel any CNIC on the basis of suspicion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016