ISLAMABAD, Aug 28: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has renewed its efforts to seek a role in scrutiny of statements of assets and liabilities filed by legislators with the Election Commission and information, including tax details, submitted by candidates with their nomination papers.
Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari, the NAB Chairman, called on Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and offered not only to assist in verification of assets but also in key electoral reforms relating to political finance.
Sources told Dawn that the NAB was ready to share its comprehensive pro forma meant to get information on assets from individuals.
Mr Bokhari said the bureau would provide lists of NAB convicts to the commission before the next election to make sure that those barred under the law from contesting elections did not take part in polls.
He also offered assistance in verifying expenses incurred by the candidates.
Under the law, the candidates for the National and provincial assemblies can spend up to Rs1.5 million and Rs1 million respectively.
Previously excessive amounts were spent on poll campaigns without any check.
After a recent Supreme Court judgment, the Election Commission formulated new rules prior to a crucial by-poll in Multan asking the candidates to open dedicated accounts for election expenses.
Mr Ebrahim said the commission was open to all good proposals and promised to examine the set of proposals from the NAB chairman in the light of laws and rules.
An official of the commission said that it had already set up a political finance wing and recruitments for sanctioned posts would start soon.
“The Constitution gives us mandate to give directions to all executive authorities and we can seek NAB’s help as and when required,” he said. He said the commission was already working on political finance and improving the form for obtaining statements of assets and liabilities.
He said the issue had been discussed with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in detail.
The law requiring political parties and all elected representatives to file details of their assets every year was incorporated in the People’s Representation Act of 2001, but surprisingly the same had never been verified.
The EC kept on arguing that it did not have the powers to scrutinise, but was only bound to make them public.
The NAB had written a letter to the commission asking it to provide information pertaining to candidates who filed nomination papers to contest any future elections, besides seeking previous record.
It has also asked the commission to update it on verification of lawmakers’ academic qualifications and action taken against those possessing fake or invalid degrees.
The NAB’s former chief, Lt-Gen Munir Hafeez, had also asked the EC in 2006 to assign his organisation a role to probe veracity of statements submitted by candidates, but the commission had replied that it was beyond its mandate and required legislation.
The bureau had also sent an outline of proposed steps to check mushroom growth of political parties and carry out meaningful verification of particulars submitted by candidates.