ISLAMABAD: Almost all permanent positions in the country’s economic apparatus — accounts, currency and revenue — are being run by temporarily-appointed personnel, even as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government prepares to announce its last federal budget later this month.

The constitutional post of the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) fell vacant for a second time in a month on April 28 following the retirement of ‘acting AGP’ Haque Nawaz, who served at the post for 18 days.

The AGP is known as the keeper of the accounts of the state and is required to certify incomes and expenditures of the federal and provincial governments every year.

The government had issued an erroneous notification when it appointed Mr Nawaz as acting AGP until a permanent replacement was named, even though he was due to retire on April 28. The legal inconsistency was pointed out after the notification was issued.


AGP, FBR chief, finance secretary all on ‘acting charge’


The post of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor, who is the custodian of the country’s monetary policy and currency, also fell vacant on April 29 when Ashraf Mahmood Wathra completed his three-year tenure.

Sources in the finance ministry said two separate summaries had been moved to the president to fill the two positions.

In the first summary, the ministry has recommended the appointment of Imran Iqbal — currently working as additional AGP — as acting AGP until a regular replacement is found and a formal notification in this regard has been issued with the approval of the president.

The other summary reportedly sought an extension for Mr Wathra, but due to certain procedural hitches, the ministry and the president’s office notified Riaz Riazuddin as acting governor.

Under the SBP Act, the post of governor has to be filled immediately upon falling vacant by someone on acting basis, and must be filled by a regular appointment within three months. The law empowers the government to give two terms to a central bank governor, who has to relinquish the job on reaching the age of 65.

On top of that, the post of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman — another key post responsible for managing more than one-third of the country’s total revenue — is currently being looked after by Dr Mohammad Irshad, who is on contract until June 30.

Moreover, incumbent finance secretary Tariq Bajwa — who is the custodian of the finances of the federal government — is also a stop-gap arrangement. He was given the assignment in the first week of February to oversee the budget-making exercise and will retire from government service on June 18 and has his sights set on the coveted AGP slot.

If that happens, Mr Bajwa would practically prepare the accounts of the federal government and share them with the provincial governments for FY2017-18 as finance secretary, and then subsequently certify their utilization as AGP upon the completion of the same fiscal year on June 30, 2018.

“For all practical purposes, the entire machinery responsible for fiscal and monetary policy, certification of accounts, revenue collection and financial management is being run by a temporary team,” a former finance secretary told Dawn. This hints towards the policy objectives of the current government, which apparently wants to avoid even minimum credible deterrence for its fiscal and monetary direction in an election year, he said.,

To top it off, the post of federal ombudsman or wafaqi mohtasib — another institution charged with ensuring transparency and accountability of the executive — is also being run on a temporary basis. Octogenarian incumbent Salman Farooqi has been working on the assignment since 2012, even though the tenure for an ombudsman is four years under the law.

However, an open-ended clause was inserted in the law through a presidential ordinance in 2013, saying that the incumbent would hold the office after expiry of his term and until his replacement entered the office. Under the original law, an ombudsman’s term could not be extended, nor could he be given a fresh term.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017

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