LAHORE: The auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) has expressed his concern about the financial matters of nearly 51 public sector companies constituted by the Punjab PML-N government of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, suggesting stoppage of the practice of (quickly) giving them funds through SDAs (Special Drawing Allowance).
He showed his concern during a high-level meeting held early this month. Official sources said on Sunday that in the meantime, the government had taken several steps to streamline the working of the public sector companies.
According to the minutes of the meeting obtained by Dawn, the AGP pointed out that the government officers working in companies did not get their LPC ( Last Pay Certificate), and as a result were reported to be drawing two salaries, one from the government and the other from the company.
The LPC is obtained by a government official upon his transfer to other department, semi-government department or autonomous body and is submitted in the AG office. It then stops his salary from the previous department and starts giving it from the accounts of the institution of his new assignment.
The meeting decided to ask all administrative secretaries and heads of these companies to check and report about the drawing of double salary by any of the government servant or employee.
The AGP said most of the time the companies do not provide their vouched accounts to the office of the AGP. Funds to these companies are provided through SDAs (Special Drawing Allowance) (other than the routine practice) due to which no internal audit is done for such amounts. He opined that the practice of SDAs needed to be discouraged.
The special secretary finance clarified that funds are released into the SDA of companies operated by administrative secretaries from where they are transferred to the commercial bank accounts of the companies.
The finance minister stated that the company mode of working had been adopted for ensuring better service delivery. It was the prerogative of the government to decide as to the mode of service delivery. She suggested both the finance department and the AGP office should sit together and resolve the difference of opinion on the issue of SDAs.
But the AGP asserted that the prerogative of the government was subject to the principles of economy and efficiency and was also conditional to financial advice.
The chief secretary said that almost all companies had completed their external audit from credible auditing firms. However, they did not have mechanism for internal audit and were lagging behind in terms of audit by the AGP. Only 17 companies got their AGP audit for the year 2015-16 while none had got it done for the year 2016-17.
The reasons for this gap was the misunderstanding amongst some of the companies that they were not required to get their accounts audited by the AGP while others waited for receiving the schedule from the AGP office, the chief secretary said conveying the Punjab government request to the AGP for arranging audit of public sector companies and mega projects preferably within next two to three months.
The AGP stated that he considered audit of the companies by auditing firms as part of their internal control mechanism. As for the request of the Punjab government, he said, it was not a simple matter. The AG office had already issued audit plan for the current year. Besides it was facing limitations of manpower.
The P&D chairman also said as part of their legal obligations, companies should provide their record, documents and vouched accounts to the AGP office. And in view of remarks by him and the AG office it was decided to ask all companies to provide complete documents and information to the audit teams.
It was decided to write a letter to the AGP to conduct the companies audit within two to three months.
Officials explained that it had not yet been confirmed whether anyone was drawing double salary. If anyone was doing so, he or she would have to return salary of the government departments they belonged to (S&GAD in case of PAS or PMS officials). Drawing double salary was a crime but in this case, the officials could not have obtained the LPCs because they were not required by the companies.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2017