KARACHI: Over the last nine years, the Auditor-General of Pakistan has pointed out a staggering Rs957 billion worth of irregularities in the provincial government’s accounts.
While the Public Accounts Committee – the provincial watchdog – has yet to be established by the incumbent assembly, the reports from the last nine years have been ridiculed and brushed off by lawmakers, both old and new.
According to the reports, published by the Auditor-General of Pakistan over the last nine years, around Rs32.81b worth of irregularities were highlighted in the fiscal year, 2009-10, Rs23.1b in 2010-11, Rs25.17b in 2011-12, Rs62.88b in 2012-13, Rs23.54b in 2013-14, Rs129.71b in 2014-15, Rs94b in 2015-16, Rs263b in 2016-17 and Rs292b in 2017-18.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always stressed that the PAC’s chairperson should be appointed from among the opposition. However, this demand of the PPP is limited only to the National Assembly.
In 2008, when PPP took control of the Centre, opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ahmed was nominated as the PAC chairperson in the National Assembly. In Sindh, however, where the party also formed the government, it appointed its own MPA Jam Tamachi as the PAC chairperson.
In 2013, the PPP couldn’t form the government in the Centre, but opposition leader Khursheed Shah was appointed as the PAC chairperson in the National Assembly. This formula, however, was again not followed in Sindh, where the PPP government again appointed its own MPA Saleem Jalbani as the chairperson. MPA Jalbani holds the record of adjourning several PAC sessions only a day after they started.
The opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, claims that the PPP is again trying to get the PAC chairperson from their own party. “We have put forward the demand that the PAC chairmanship should be given to the opposition party but they seem to be afraid of it,” said Naqvi. In response to another question, he said that the PPP fears that strict accountability would be done if the PAC chairperson is appointed from the opposition.
Since 2008, the provincial committee’s performance has been anything but dismal. In all these years, not a single annual report has been published by the PAC.
According to Rule 191 of the Sindh Assembly’s rules of procedure, the progress report must be submitted annually for the audit report. When The Express Tribune reached out to a member of the Sindh Assembly about the prevalent situation, he asked how the PAC could have prepared the progress reports when they hadn’t done anything in all these years.
Establishment of PAC
Rule 189 in the Sindh Assembly’s rules of procedure mentions the composition of the Public Accounts Committee, according to which the committee should be formed after the general elections, comprising seven members from the Sindh Assembly.
The committee’s function is to deal with the accounts of the Sindh Government and the Auditor-General’s reports sent by the Assembly. The functions of this committee also include the scrutiny of the government’s accounts and Auditor-General’s reports. The committee will watch if the funds are used for the same purpose for which they were reserved or not. Meanwhile, according to rule 191, the committee is obliged to present its report before the Assembly every year.
What the new PAC looks like
It has now been six months since the Sindh Assembly has been convened. The PAC should have been formed after the chief minister took the oath on 18 August, 2018, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly.
When contacted, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla said that the process of dialogue is ongoing between the government and opposition parties and a final decision will be taken in this regard soon.
On a question regarding the PAC’s previous performance, he claimed that Jalbani was a good chairperson and that his performance was satisfactory. To another question regarding the chairperson’s appointment from the opposition, Chawla justified that the PAC chairperson in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also belonged to the treasury.
Around a million rupees are spent on the audit of the Sindh Government’s accounts by the Auditor-General of Pakistan every year. Every single sector gets audited each year, but the irregularities that are reported are never investigated.
In fact, the seriousness of the Sindh government can be gauged from the fact the Auditor General’s report for fiscal year, 2017-2018, was submitted to the Sindh Assembly in September 2018, but it hasn’t even been presented before the Assembly yet.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2019.