The government has referred cases against more than 2,000 government employees who fraudulently benefited from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to the Federal Investigation Agency, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar announced on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Akbar said the government has also written to all chief secretaries and the Establishment Division for taking departmental action against, and recovering funds from, the government officers who benefited from BISP, which is aimed at providing financial support to the deserving poor and destitute.
It was decided to ask the FIA to register criminal cases against the said government officers and the people who assisted them in the withdrawing of BISP funds because the expenditure was carried out from the federal budget, the SAPM explained, terming it "a straightforward case of fraud".
He said government analysis had revealed that as many as 140,000 government employees or their spouses benefited from BISP funds meant for the poor.
A major chunk of the 140,000 people were government employees of grade 1 to 16 while the rest (2,037) were officers of grade 17 to 22.
"This is a lack of transparency of the system and its regulations that this went on for years and the officers continued to withdraw money," Akbar said, adding that it was important to "name and shame" people who consumed funds meant for the poor.
Giving a breakdown of the cases identified across the country, the SAPM said the number of government employees of grade 17 and above whose spouses fraudulently benefited from BISP was nine in Azad Kashmir and 40 in Gilgit-Baltistan. As many as 554 officers or their spouses benefited from the programme in Balochistan, 342 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 101 in Punjab and 938 in Sindh.
A total of 39 employees of grade 1 to 16 and four officers of grade 17 and above who worked for BISP itself benefited from the programme; they have now been fired. Among employees of the federal government, this number was 48.
SAPM Akbar also revealed names of several officers from the education department in Balochistan who had two wives, both of whom were benefiting from BISP.
Last month, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar had announced that the government had conducted forensic data analysis and identified 820,165 undeserving people who were availing the BISP assistance. She had said the government was "exiting" these people from the programme, adding that this exercise would be conducted annually to weed out any beneficiaries who had achieved financial stability so that the funds could be disbursed to more deserving people.
Launched in July 2008, the federally-funded BISP is Pakistan’s largest social safety net, catering to women and benefiting around 5.4 million people, according to data released in 2016.