ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday sought an explanation from the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) — the military’s engineering organisation — and summoned its director general on its next meeting after he failed to share the Kartarpur corridor’s record with the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP).
PAC chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain directed, “since the FWO refused to provide record to the auditor general, they should come to explain their position”.
Mr Hussain further directed the PAC secretary to ask the FWO director general to appear before the committee on the next meeting.
The auditor general, Javed Jahangir, informed the committee that in compliance with the PAC’s directive of conducting audit of the Kartarpur corridor project, the auditors have written to the FWO and sought the relevant record.
In response, the FWO authorities replied that since the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for this project was still awaited, the FWO could not share any detail of the project with the auditors, said AGP Jahangir.
Chairman wants project details provided to auditors
The Kartarpur corridor is a visa-free border crossing, connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to the border with India. The crossing allows Sikh devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres from the India-Pakistan border without a visa, creating a link which allows pilgrims holding Indian passports to easily visit both the Kartarpur shrine and Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the Pakistani side of the border.
The decision to open Kartarpur border was shared by Chief of the Army Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa with the Congress leader and then Indian Punjab minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, at the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018. Islamabad announced the date for the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor only after the Indian Union cabinet agreed to avail the offer of the passageway in view of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith.
Under the proposal, the Indian government developed the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the border, while Pakistan constructed the corridor connecting the border to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Kartarpur area of Narowal district.
The FWO was assigned the construction of the project. AGP Jahangir told the PAC that “FWO responded that the project has not yet been approved by Ecnec we will not share Kartarpur details related to this project”.
Rana Tanveer remarked that FWO might have completed the project from its own resources and is now seeking funds from the government, but in any eventuality, they should have provided the details to the auditors.
The PAC chairman said that the FWO have to agree upon the audit and in case it was reluctant, the committee might summon its director general.
A National Assembly member belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Raja Riaz Ahmed Khan, insisted the PAC chairman summon the FWO DG.
Subsequently, Mr Tanveer directed the PAC secretary to put the FWO DG on notice for the next date and asked him to fix the next date after a fortnight.
The PAC also summoned the chairman of the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) as the auditors and the representatives of the PEC had divergent views with regard to jurisdiction of the AGP.
The PEC’s stance is that since it is generating revenue on its own and the council is not getting any funds from the public exchequer, therefore, it is not supposed to get its accounts audited by the AGP.
Citing the statute, the PEC’s legal adviser said that the PEC’s Act is very clear that the accounts of the council could only be audited by the private auditor.
The AGP staff on the other hand said that since the PEC was established through an Act of Parliament, therefore, it is answerable to the PAC which is the apex parliamentary forum for accountability of public sector entities.
Mr Tanveer summoned the PEC chairman for the next meeting and said that in case the matter was not resolved, this issue might be referred to the law and justice division for determination of the AGP’s jurisdiction on the PEC.
The PAC examined audit paras of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The committee cleared all the audit objections.
Since the auditors raised the paras on the irregularity of a small amount, the PAC directed that in future such objections may be settled in the meetings of the departmental accounts committee (DAC) and should not be brought in the PAC’s meetings.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020