LAHORE: The Prime Minister’s Task Force on Austerity and Restructuring Government has started considering introduction of the Corruption Sniffing Bots (a computer programme) for government functionaries to prevent any chance of their living beyond their known sources of income.
According to official sources here on Sunday, in its last meeting held in Islamabad, the task force, headed by Dr Ishrat Hussain, asked Burhan Rasool to circulate concept paper on the bots after he proposed to use them to sniff out anomalies in encrypted data of employees. The programme would first notify the employee of any inconsistency, allowing him/her to take a corrective action before any punitive action.
The officials said the meeting decided to make it compulsory for all the government employees to declare their assets and strengthen internal accountability by having scrutiny committees for identifying government servants living beyond means.
A computer system would keep a check on officers, family’s bank accounts, assets
The decision was taken after the task force agreed to constitution of scrutiny committees by all departments with the assignment to reconcile the assets declaration and tax returns of their employees. In case of any anomalies, the employees could be asked to explain reasons before taking a decision for any further action.
The task force members, Salman Akram Raja advocate, Wajid Rana and Gulzar Shah, the joint secretary of the Establishment Division, were asked to frame rules for the scrutiny committees.
Explaining the concept of the corruption sniffing bots, the officials say combating corruption within the public sector was one of the biggest challenges in Pakistan. People with power and position keep coming up with new schemes and innovative ideas to make money in violation of all checks and rules. There are laws and checks but they are tackled. Technology, however, can be leveraged to complement the existing framework to combat the menace.
For starters, the officials said, the government could consider creating a central repository of individual financial profiles for all the government officers and their dependents. This can be achieved through the development and integration of various systems. These systems include making the payroll data of all government employees currently stored in SAP-based “Project to Improve Financial Reporting & Auditing” (Pifra) System comprehensive, correct and CNIC-based as opposed to Pifra account number. Any source of household income other than the government salary should be explicitly mentioned. In this way, the government would keep a record of all known sources of income of each and every government employee.
The second system is about maintaining CNIC-based data of parents and all dependents of all the government employees after cross checking from National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
Others include maintaining full service history of all the officials. This includes data on take-home salary and posting and transfer orders, mandatory filing of income tax returns for all government employees and automatic annual comparing of assets and wealth statement from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
Getting monthly data from the State Bank’s Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) to check the account balance of all the bank accounts of all functionaries and their dependents, and information from the excise department to know ownership of vehicles or property, travel history, data of credit card and payment history and introduction of a highly rewarded whistle blower system are some other mechanisms, the officials said.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2019