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ECP begins audit of lawmakers’ statements of assets

Updated April 24, 2019

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A similar exercise had started in December 2016, but had been abandoned halfway without any formal announcement. ─ File photo
A similar exercise had started in December 2016, but had been abandoned halfway without any formal announcement. ─ File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has started audit of lawmakers’ statements of assets and liabilities for the financial year that ended on June 30, 2018.

Informed sources told Dawn that explanations will be sought from members of the national and provincial assemblies and the Senate on identification of any discrepancy in their statements.

A four-member team of the ECP, headed by director general political finance, has started the audit from the statements of assets of MNAs.

A similar exercise had started in December 2016, but had been abandoned halfway without any formal announcement. When asked as to why the previous exercise could not be completed, an official of the ECP said that the ECP had gone into election mode and the head of political finance could not continue the task. “Now a permanent director general political finance is in the saddle”, he said.

In year 2016, the ECP was initially contemplating random scrutiny of 25 per cent of statements of assets, but later at a meeting chaired by the chief election commissioner had decided to go for scrutiny of 100pc statements to see if these contained any discrepancies and apparent lies.

Under the approved procedure, the process involves classification of the statements of assets. The statements will be divided into four slabs of value starting from Rs1 million to beyond Rs1 billion.

The directorate general of political finance, if required, will compare a statement of a member with his statements submitted in the past two years. This simple comparison may indicate range of variation of the information in respect of cost, changing business trends, acquisition and utilisation of the assets during the past two years and values of expenditure. The variation beyond the common sense during these three years may guide the relevant section to classify it as a simple case with an acceptable range of increase/decrease in values or needing further evidence for justification of the reported variations in different values.

The political finance may ask for the required evidence from the submitter of the form and if the evidence was still found not appropriate to support the variation trends, he may request for corroboration from the state agencies concerned for an informed decision.

This would be the prime responsibility of the political finance wing to frame issues in each form. The issues it would be required to identify will include huge variations in different values i.e. cost, market values, expenditure and earnings etc, change in business information; non-compatibility of asset formation with earning information or revenue and expenditure figures, dependents information and missing information, if any.

An official of the ECP told Dawn that those found guilty of concealing their assets or making any other false declarations would be proceeded against for committing a corrupt practice under the law, which might entail a punishment of up to three years imprisonment. He said the conviction also entailed disqualification from being a lawmaker or contesting polls for up to five years.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019