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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission (KPEC), which the provincial government announced to abolish on Wednesday, cost the province’s kitty up to Rs1.056 billion during the four years of its existence.

The announcement to abolish the accountability body set up during the previous government of PTI came after it became rudderless and dysfunctional in the absence of a full-time head, tug-of-war between its operational and oversight wings and flurry of amendments that left the law governing the entity’s affairs mutilated.

Details obtained under the KP Right to Information Act, 2013 show that provincial finance department released Rs1.056 billion to KPEC till May 2018.

Breakdown of the sums allocated to the commission shows that in 2014-15 the provincial government allocated Rs57.862 million to it from Annual Development Programme.

Changes in law, internal wrangling kept KPEC dysfunctional most of the time

The next year, during 2015-16 fiscal, the funds recorded a sevenfold increase as the commission received Rs348.331 million.

In 2016-17, KPEC received Rs300.44 million from the provincial government and Rs349.55 million during 2017-18.

The commission worked at full steam during first two years of its life; however, in February 2016, the resignation of its director general retired Lt Gen Hamid Khan and subsequent events rendered it largely ineffective as provincial government failed to appoint a permanent head for it.

A KPEC official was given the charge of director general office, however, the department declared his appointment illegal last year.

Reports and officials documents available with Dawn paint a sorry picture of haphazard and arbitrary decision making, which not only doomed the body, but also caused the province’s a huge amount of money.

The KPEC Act, 2014 was amended at least seven times in four years. The commission’s annual report for 2017 noted that the law was changed twice during the year.

“The arrest of accused has been conditioned with the permission of court. This is unprecedented preposition inserted in this Act because such permission from a court in cognisable offences of white-collar crime is a hurdle,” said the report.

The report said that a selection committee formed for key appointments at the body was never made operational due to legal controversies, impacting operational performance of the body.

In order to look into decision making process of seven amendments proposed to the law, Dawn submitted a RTI request to establishment department earlier in April. However, after a delay of five months, the department provided summaries for only two while the remaining were withheld without assigning any reason.

The summary shows that in June 2014, barely a month and half after the commission had made its first arrest, establishment department proposed amendments to the Act. The KPEC Act, 2014 abolished the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) and merged its staff and resources with the accountability body.

However, the decision makers woke up to its perils some six months later and thorough an amendment made ACE a separate organisation.

The KPEC director general met the then chief minister Pervez Khattak on December 11, 2014 and asked him to again place ACE under the commission. However, the big blow came in February 9, 2019, when the provincial government issued an ordinance, curtailing powers of KEPC head, prompting Gen Hamid Khan to resign in protest the next day. The ordinance was withdrawn after much criticism in May 2016.

However, by then the government officials had turned against the accountability body, saying it was interfering in administrative affairs.

The secretaries committee in its August 29, 2016 meeting pressed for review of KPEC law on emergency basis. A charter of demand singed by the PCS Officers Association, PAS Association, Treasury Account Association, teachers, paramedics, clerks and Class-IV employees was presented before the committee.

On the other hand, throughout this period, the KPEC’s oversight branch, called commission and operation branch known as directorate, also remained at each other’s throat in a struggle for power.

At a time when this legal, bureaucratic and political drama was gradually unfolding, KPEC’s internal affairs were also going nowhere. A 350-page review of contractual hiring for the commission during the first year, conducted by internal monitoring and public complaints wing, found out that rules and regulations were violated in about 10 cases.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018