ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law and Justice failed to utilise funds meant to prevent violence against children, according to an audit report for the year 2014-2015.
According to data available on the website of Sahil, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), “in Pakistan children less than 18 years of age are falling prey to child sexual abuse at the ratio of six children per day.”
It said in 2018 a total 3,832 cases of child abuse were reported and 55pc of the victims were girls and 45pc boys. The major crime categories of the reported cases were: abduction (923), sodomy (589), rape (537), missing children (452), attempt to rape (345), gang sodomy (282), gang rape (156) and 99 cases of child marriages.
According to the audit report, Rs6.86 million were allocated for ‘preventing violence against children in Pakistan’. However, the amount could not be utilised and lapsed.
As per the audit report, the law ministry could not explain its position for not utilising the funds. It replied that the project was transferred to the Ministry of Human Rights and the relevant record was not available with the law ministry.
Rs6.86m allocated to law ministry for 2014-15 lapsed, says audit report
However, the audit report said the amount was part of the original grant allocated for the law ministry for the period.
Likewise, Secretary Law and Justice Khashihur Rehman also failed to explain the reasons for the unspent grant of Rs1.7bn of the ministry during the period. The original grant for the year 2014-15 was Rs2.35bn.
When a subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sought an explanation from the law secretary, he replied with a smile: “I am a draftsman and recently was given the administrative charge of the ministry.”
He shifted the blame to the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) as well as the superior judiciary for not spending the amount.
He said a major chunk of the government releases pertained to the development work of the Federal Judicial Academy and furnishing of the Supreme Court building.
He said Rs322 million could not be paid as judicial allowance to the staff working in courts and tribunals under the administrative control of the law ministry since the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.
Mr Rehman also did not disclose information about the funds released to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) that were not utilised.
According to the audit report, the government released the funds to SCBA for construction of a lawyers’ hostel.
The lawyers’ body converted the hostel into a luxury hotel and is earning a handsome amount from the commercial venture.
When Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed asked the law secretary about conversion of the hostel into a hotel, the latter said he could confirm this after personally visiting the site.
46 posts vacant in NCSW
The acting secretary National Commission on the Statue of Women (NCSW) informed the committee that 46 posts of BS-17 and above could not be filled since the commission could not frame rules because of bureaucratic and administrative hurdles.
In response to the audit para of 2014-2015 that 107 posts of the commission could not be filled and NCSW had to surrender Rs130 million, the official said the rules were framed in 2018 after which posts in BS-1 to BS-15 were filled.
The official said 46 posts of BS-17 and above could not be filled since the chairperson of the commission had retired after completing her term.
Convener of the subcommittee Sherry Rehman expressed displeasure over the inordinate delay in framing of the rules and sought a report within two weeks.
Ms Rehman said: “We worked diligently to make this commission autonomous. It is regrettable that such an important institution is facing challenges and being made redundant in a country where women constitute half of the population. Former NCSW chairperson Khawar Mumtaz, who championed women’s rights and led the women movement from the front, tried to turn everyone’s attention to the understaffing and lack of facilities within the commission.
“She complained of being provided no back-up. Today it is being revealed that this was because no one cared to fill over a 100 vacancies which were brought about through government grants and foreign aid within this organisation.”
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020