NAB deputy chairman Hussain Asghar will head the inquiry commission.
NAB deputy chairman Hussain Asghar will head the inquiry commission.

ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday notified an 11-member Commission of Inquiry to determine if increase in public debt between 2008 and 2018 was justified by infrastructure development programme or misused by public office-holders of the last two governments of the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

The notification has been issued by the cabinet division under Section-3 of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017. The commission will have the powers to co-opt or engage any person from public or private sector, local or from abroad, as a member, consultant or adviser to assist it.

Headed by Deputy Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Hussain Asghar, a former grade-22 police officer, the commission comprises unnamed representatives of the Military intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, NAB, State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Accountant General Pakistan Revenue and special secretary of finance division.

ISI, MI sleuths among 11 members of commission that will submit its report within six months

The commission shall furnish its final report within six months of its formation, with periodical interim reports on a monthly basis. The time limit may, however, be extended with prior approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Under its terms of reference (ToR), the commission will determine significance of major infrastructure or public sector development works carried out from 2008 to 2018, and commensurate them with the increase in public debt from Rs6,690 billion in 2008 to Rs30,846bn till Sept 2018.

The commission will also investigate about the award or implementation of any contract, agreement or project and whether any debt was taken for a particular project or undertaking and the same was then spent on that project or not.

It will also conclude if the terms and conditions of any public contract were tainted, benevolent or artificially inflated to facilitate any kick-backs and, if so, in whose favour.

It will also ascertain whether any holders of public office or their spouses, children and any person connected to them expended any public funds to meet personal or private expenditures, beyond what is permitted under the law and rules.

Interestingly, the commission will also investigate if “the cap prescribed under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, 2005 has been busted” and if so, reasons and justifications thereof. It may be noted that all successive governments since fiscal year 2007-08 have been in breach of this law and reporting its reasons to the parliament every year.

The commission will also examine if the amendments to the 2005 act were made with the spirit of Article 166 of the Constitution or not.

It will be required to get forensic and special audits conducted through any reputed international or local auditor or set of auditors to determine real nature, scope, volume, cost and trail of the investments or expenditures of the federal government (or any part of it) from Feb 2008 to Sept 2018.

The commission will fix responsibility in respect of any of the given TOR and refer any irregularity or illegality found for investigation and prosecution to a relevant agency or department.

An appropriate budget will be sanctioned for the commission and it will be entitled to utilise and spend the funds in its discretion, the notification said.

The formation of the commission and its TORs were approved by the federal cabinet earlier this week.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2019