KARACHI: Serious financial discrepancies to the tune of Rs1.867 billion have been found in the accounts of the zakat funds at the Sindh level in health institutions and District Zakat Committees (DZC), according to the audit report for financial year 2016-17.

The report was recently presented before the Sindh Assembly, which referred it to the Public Accounts Committee so that it could study public audits, invite ministers, permanent secretaries or other ministry officials for questioning and issue a report of its findings.

It said that a complete record of the total amount of Rs30.680 million released under the head of “rehabilitation and marriages assistance to unmarried women” during 2014-16 was found missing from the office of DZC, Karachi East.

Audit report says Rs1.176bn zakat amount deposited with the Sindh Bank was irregularly retained by the bank

The audit drew a sample of 13 cheques amounting to Rs9.180m to reconcile the name of payees from the payee register of the office of the treasury officer Karachi and it was revealed that all the payees’ names were different in the payee register from the name of payee noted in cash book/chequebook counterfoils.

Other major irregularities as reported in the audit pertain to irregular disbursement of permanent rehabilitation social welfare fund of Rs37.951m, irregular distribution of ATM card to the tune of Rs327.67m on account of the “Guzara Allowance” through the Sindh Bank.

The matter was reported to the management but no reply was received and the meeting of the district accounts committee (DAC) was also not convened till the finalisation of the audit report.

The audit report also pointed out that the recovery of Rs130.084m, which was not in the notice of the executive, was not made till the compilation of the report.

Out of Rs2.950bn budget, the report said, only Rs1.435bn — 49 per cent of the total available zakat budget — was released to 28 DZCs and 38 hospitals in the province.

The report further pointed out that whole zakat amount of Rs1,176,000,000 was deposited with the Sindh Bank in saving account for four months before releasing it to deserving people of the DZCs in Sindh.

This amount was irregularly retained by the bank only to earn profit but despite repeated reminders the principal accounts officer did not convene the DAC meeting till filing of this audit report.

The auditor general of Pakistan has recommended that the amount retained by the Sindh Bank along with profit be refunded into the provincial zakat fund.

The report also pointed out irregular extension of the chairmen of the Provincial Zakat Council (PZC) and DZCs even after expiry of their tenure, which was in violation of Section 12(4) of the Sindh Zakat and Ushr Act, 2011.

It states that the chairman and members of the PZC, other than ex-officio members, shall hold office for a term of three years, and shall be eligible for appointment for another term but no chairman and members shall be eligible for re-appointment after two consecutive terms. Provided that in the event of delay in the constitution of the new committee under sub-section(3) the council may ask the DZC to continue to function for a period not exceeding six months after the expiry of the term of its office.

The zakat administration in Sindh appointed the chairmen of PZC for a period of three years in July 2008 but even after expiry of two terms on July 16, 2014 the chairmen of DZCs continue to hold the offices till September 2014.

This matter was brought to the knowledge of the authorities on Jan 6, 2017 but no response was received, which raised week internal control and also cast doubts over transparency in the disbursement of the zakat funds.

The audit reports recommended that an inquiry be conducted and responsibility be fixed for non-compliance and corrective measures be taken for removal of chairmen.

Other irregularities include misappropriation of Rs21.50m funds without obtaining any required documents; irregular release of Rs15.775m funds under the head of “marriage assistance”; irregular release of Rs2.893m to the social welfare institutions; irregular expenditure by utilization of Rs3.651m funds without prior approval of the SZC; unauthorised transfer of Rs1.517m zakat fund; and unauthorised expenditure of Rs2.05m on food items.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2019

Opinion

Editorial

Saudi FM’s visit
17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

AFTER a two-day stay, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, accompanied by a delegation including other...
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...
Tough talks
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Tough talks

The key to unlocking fresh IMF funds lies in convincing the lender that Pakistan is now ready to undertake real reforms.
Caught unawares
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Caught unawares

The government must prioritise the upgrading of infrastructure to withstand extreme weather.
Going off track
16 Apr, 2024

Going off track

LIKE many other state-owned enterprises in the country, Pakistan Railways is unable to deliver, while haemorrhaging...