LAHORE: Two task forces on civil service reforms — austerity and restructuring — have recommended that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should not proceed against a serving or retired civil servant without the approval of supervisory committees at the federal and provincial levels.
The decision to forward these recommendations to the federal government was taken at a meeting in Islamabad last month. The Adviser to the PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Hussain, was in the chair.
According to the minutes of the meeting released recently, a copy of which is available with Dawn, lawyer Salman Akram Raja put forward amendments to the NAB legislation in the light of decisions taken in previous meetings of the task forces.
It was proposed that no investigation or reference be initiated or no arrest made of a person unless NAB has placed the prima facie cause before a supervisory committee for its approval to proceed with the reference, investigation or arrest.
As such the supervisory committee would assist the bureau in filtering out the investigation process by deciding whether there is sufficient prima facie evidence to proceed with investigation or arrest by the NAB.
Supervisory bodies recommended at federal, provincial levels to decide if there is sufficient evidence against suspects
A person being proceeded against would include anyone who is or has been in the service of the state, which would include contractual or ex-officio appointments. In order to bring out clarity, the definition of “person” was elaborated upon. It was agreed that this definition would only cover government servants and not political figures holding public offices.
The supervisory committees would consist of a retired judge of a high court, three persons who have served as secretary to the federal government or in an equivalent position and whose retirement from service occurred at least two years before the date of appointment to the supervisory committee, a senior chartered accountant, a senior banker, and a senior civil engineer, a domain specialist who can be co-opted.
Salman Akram Raja proposed that a 15-member parliamentary committee would choose the members of the supervisory committees through a majority vote. Members of the parliamentary committee would be nominated by the heads of parliamentary parties having more than 10 members in parliament.
Members of the task forces suggested that to enable the parliamentary committee to practise due diligence, it was necessary to have a larger pool of candidates, where at least three names for each category of members in the supervisory committee should be presented before the parliamentary committee.
It was also proposed that the parliamentary committee could reject the panel proposed by the government and propose or seek new names.
The participants opined that the supervisory committee ought to strike a balance and be able to convey a sense to government servants that there were adequate safeguards in place before a reference was moved against them and at the same time pave the way to strengthen internal accountability and provide assistance to NAB if an offence was traced.
The meeting proposed that there should be one or more supervisory committees at the federal as well as provincial levels, including Gilgit-Baltistan.
Before NAB proceeds with a reference, investigation or arrest of a government servant, approval of the supervisory committee will have to be sought.
The government would provide a panel of three names for each category of members in the supervisory committees in order for the parliamentary committee to select one member from each category.
The establishment division will provide secretarial support to the parliamentary committee.
The parliamentary committee would be empowered to either select the members of the supervisory committee from the panel provided or propose or seek new names. The members of the supervisory committees shall serve for a single term of four years.
The terms and conditions of service of the members of the supervisory committees shall be identical to the terms and conditions of service in force from time to time for the members of the Federal Public Service Commission.
A participant of the task forces, who requested anonymity, said that the proposals would be sent to the government for approval. He said the proposals, if implemented, could be an answer to complaints by civil servants all over the country alleging intimidation and humiliation at the hands of NAB.
Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019