ISLAMABAD, April 24: The information ministry has sought legal opinion from the law ministry about whether or not it can share the details of accounts of its much-debated Secret Service Expenditure (SSE) with the Supreme Court and the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), sources in the ministry told Dawn on Wednesday.
They said the information ministry had written a letter to the law ministry on Tuesday seeking legal opinion after the Supreme Court directed the AGP to conduct comprehensive audit of SSE accounts to ascertain details of the fund.
Information Secretary Agha Nadeem and caretaker Law Minister Ahmer Bilal Soofi did not deny the existence of the letter.
“May be such a letter has been sent to the law ministry but I have to check this,” Mr Nadeem said.
On the other hand Law Minister Ahmer Bilal Soofi said: “I have so far not received any such letter from the information ministry because when a letter is sent to us it takes at least two to three days to reach my desk.”
The Supreme Court, hearing a petition filed by some journalists, had directed the AGP to conduct audit of secret fund accounts and after that the AGP sent a letter to the information ministry asking it to submit accounts so that orders of the apex court could be obeyed.
The information ministry has already provided two separate lists: List-A carries information about Special Publicity Fund (SPF) and List-B carries details about the secret fund but with a request that it should not be made public.
The ministry did not explain why accounts of the SSE could not be declassified, audited or its details made public.
The next hearing of the case will be held on Thursday where the information ministry will have to inform the Supreme Court whether its orders regarding audit of secret fund’s accounts have been obeyed or not.
A senior officer of the law ministry told Dawn that providing lists of secret fund and its audit were two different issues.
He said that without audit it could not be ascertained whether the funds had been utilised under the same head as mentioned in the SSE list or not.
“If the list of secret fund says that half a million rupees were given to a media house, it can be judged only through its audit whether the money was spent on the same purpose or not and that whether the ministry of information is empowered to utilise public money in such a way,” he said.
It has also been learnt that after receiving the letter from the information ministry, the law ministry officials were of the view how they could make legal opinion on an issue on which the Supreme Court had already given its directive.
It is also believed that the ministry of information is using delaying tactics by referring the matter to the law ministry so that alleged misdeeds of the information ministry officials and beneficiaries of the SSE remain unexposed.