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ISLAMABAD: The office of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had made the institution powerless against the country's premier intelligence agencies — Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Through the finance bill 2014, the government has virtually exempted accounts of the ISI and IB from audit.

“We have to accept their accounts with government certification due to a clause in the finance bill 2014,” testified AGP Rana Assad Amin before the PAC.

The AGP is a constitutional institution empowered to examine all expenditures made from public money.

“We are not the auditors of another country. Why are they reluctant to get their accounts audited by us?” wondered Mr Amin, who was finance ministry’s adviser in 2014.

The revelations were made during a meeting of the PAC which was examining an audit para related to the secret service fund of the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the interior ministry.

The auditor general informed the PAC that the Supreme Court had in August 2013 ruled that all funds released by the federal government were auditable. He said when the AGP office started audit of the NCMC’s secret service fund, the auditors were not provided any record.

The record was provided later on and the auditors raised 47 objections on different spending of the secret service fund, the PAC was told.

When PAC member Shafqat Mehmood asked about the procedure for the audit of secret service fund, Mr Amin said the practice of releasing the secret service fund to different ministries had been abolished in 2013.

He, however, said that the ISI and IB were still utilising the secret service fund and the auditors due to a legal bar of the finance bill 2014 could not audit their accounts.

When PAC chairman Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah reminded him about the Supreme Court’s ruling against the secret service fund and that the auditor general is empowered to conduct audit of all the release out of public money, Mr Amin said his institution had sought a legal advice from the law division on this particular matter.

He said the law division suggested that since the apex court did not set aside the ouster clause of the finance bill 2014, therefore, the law was still in place under which the auditors had to accept the accounts of these agencies with government certification.

He added that the institution had then approached the attorney general to get his opinion, who last week endorsed the suggestion of the law ministry.

Mr Amin said the office of the auditor general was not satisfied with the situation and it was going to request the federal government to withdraw the ouster clause from the finance bill.

Mehmood Khan Achakzai suggested that the PAC might become a party in this case and file a petition before the Supreme Court to enable the office of the auditor general to conduct audit of the intelligence agencies. However, his suggestion was turned down by the committee.

The PAC, however, suggested to the auditor general to file a petition on his own in this regard.

The committee was of the view that accounts of all state entities were subjected to audit.

Mr Amin further said that in addition to these intelligence agencies, Frontier Works Organisation, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and some other state institutions avoided audit of their accounts from the AGP office.

He said the NBP had obtained a stay order from the Sindh High Court (SHC) in 2012 against the audit and despite the Supreme Court had allowed the AGP office to conduct audit of all the state-run institutions, the management of the bank did not allow the auditors to perform their statutory assignment.

He informed the PAC that the AGP office had decided to file a contempt of court petition against the NBP for not permitting the auditors to audit their accounts.

Published in Dawn December 21st, 2016