ISLAMABAD, Aug 7: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly continues to face resistance from government departments over its role of overseeing their financial affairs as many of them have refused to present details of annual spending for mandatory audit.
During a meeting of the committee held at the Parliament House here on Tuesday, a visibly disturbed PAC Chairman, Nadeem Afzal Gondal, directed Finance Secretary Abdul Wajid Rana to prepare references against all those departments that were refusing government audit.
Mr Gondal said that after the passage of the 18th Amendment, all public sector departments which received funding from the government could not escape scrutiny of their finances by the auditor general.
The PAC had taken up accounts of the finance division for 2004-2005 and 2006-2007.
After consulting the members of the committee, the chairman decided to give a deadline of 15 days to all government-funded departments under the finance division to get their audit done and report back to the committee.
When asked, the finance secretary said the National Bank of Pakistan, Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Competition Commission of Pakistan, which fell under the control of finance division, had refused audit.
“Let there be no doubts in the minds of people running these institutions. Tell them, the PAC wants their accounts audited within the next couple of weeks, otherwise, the committee will take them to the task. We will see whether we have to invoke Article 6 or some other constitutional measure against them,” said Mr Gondal.
“Whether somebody likes it or not, as long parliament is in place, the bureaucracy has no option but to respond to the PAC,” remarked Ayaz Sadiq of the PMLN.
“The only reason these departments are avoiding the audit, because they seems to have many skeletons in their cupboard, which in case of scrutiny will become public,” he said.
Yasmin Rehman of the PPP also called for an audit of all public sector organisations without any discrimination.
Once again the PAC has expressed serious displeasure over the lack of implementation of the transport monetisation policy. The PAC chairman said besides taking additional benefits under the new policy, a majority of the officers were still using official vehicles in the name of operational pool vehicles.
Answering a battery of questions, Finance Secretary Abdul Wajid Rana conceded that the new policy which was in place for the past six months was not being implemented in letter and spirit. He, however, contended that if implemented the new policy would help save millions of rupees.
He said it was not possible to exactly measure financial impact of the policy, but initial statistics suggested that the government had saved about Rs165 million so far.In response, the PAC chairman said: “You may be telling a true story, but what we see all around paints an entirely different picture because, besides having benefited from the policy, the officers are still using government vehicles.”
Yasmin Rehman said it was probably the only policy of the government sector, which had been implemented so quickly, otherwise, people knew how good national bureaucracy were at implementation.
Noor Alam of the PPP inquired about the logic behind allowing some federal ministers to use multiple vehicles. He particularly mentioned the name of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who reportedly has a number of vehicles at his disposal. In response, the finance secretary said vehicles for the ministers were managed by the cabinet division and the finance division had nothing to do with them.
The PAC constituted a sub-committee headed by Zahid Hamid of the PMLN to determine exact financial impact of the policy, besides directing the auditor general to hold a special audit. Moreover, the committee unanimously decided to take disciplinary action against all those federal secretaries who themselves or people in their departments violated the transport monetisation policy.
The PAC directed the finance secretary to hold special deliberations on the issue of difference of salaries in various government departments.
For example, the committee was informed that an employee of the Supreme Court and Federal of Board of Revenue in a certain pay scale drew much higher salary than in any other government sector.
The finance secretary admitted that a wrong precedent of jacking up salaries by some departments had been set, creating an unrest among employees of other departments.
Similarly, he said some departments offered an incentive package based on special performance in violation of government rules which needed to be dealt with. “The practice is so much rampant that every second day we at the finance division receive requests by departments to start incentive packages.”
Only recently, the employees of the Auditor General and Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) went on a strike demanding salaries equal to some other government departments.
Mr Gondal directed the finance secretary to come back to the committee after due deliberations that how they could effectively address this discrimination among government departments.