ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday deplored what it called inaction on the part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Punjab government in a case related to setting up of several public companies under different provincial departments.
Punjab Advocate General Sardar Jamal Sukhera and Chief Secretary Azam Suleman as well as the prosecutor general of NAB were directed to appear before the court on the next date of hearing, which is expected to be fixed in the week beginning on Jan 20.
A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and consisting of Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had taken up a suo motu case relating to the functioning of 70 public companies incorporated by the Punjab government during the tenure of former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The then chief justice, Mian Saqib Nisar, had initiated the case on reports about appointments of different public servants as heads of these public sector companies.
Despite earlier court orders, reports about several public companies headed by bureaucrats have not been furnished
During one of the proceedings at Lahore, the former chief justice had observed that the government officers working as heads of these companies should return to the government the money received by them over and above their regular salaries, saying that no one should be allowed to plunder or misuse taxpayers’ money with impunity.
Last week when the case was taken up by the SC bench, the incumbent chief justice in a written order regretted that no report was furnished by NAB in compliance with the earlier directives about the functioning of these 70 companies.
“Such aspect has been deliberated in so many orders of this court but still no comprehensive report regarding the operation of these companies has been made available except for saying that 42 officers employed in these companies are those who were government servants and are getting salary/benefits of more than Rs300,000 per month,” the order deplored.
In one of the previous hearings, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had wondered whether any government could delegate constitutional functions to such companies.
“This is a very sorry state of affairs where it seems that there is total inaction on the part of NAB and their functionaries as well as that of the provincial government,” the chief justice observed.
The chief justice ordered the prosecutor general of NAB to appear before the court at the next hearing and ensure that compliance with the court order should be made in the case by furnishing a comprehensive report on all aspects of the matter regarding these 70 companies. The report should contain information about the employees employed by the companies as well as the use of the funds defrayed to them by the Punjab government.
The report should also highlight illegalities while pointing out and suggesting appropriate action, the order said.
Likewise, the advocate general and the chief secretary of Punjab were also asked to appear before the court at the next hearing to inform the court about the present status of these 70 companies and whether they were still operational, and if so, what functions were they performing.
The report should also contain how many employees were employed by these companies, the allocation of funds to them and what precisely was being done with those funds. The report should also highlight whether any benefit was accruing to the people of Punjab in view of the operations of these companies, said the court order.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020