ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Saturday acknowledged that mismanagement and malpractices in office of the Accountant General Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) were causing a loss of up to Rs175 billion per annum to the exchequer.
“The estimated purchases made by the federal government were around Rs1 trillion every year but Rs150bn to Rs175bn was paid at above the market rates in these purchases,” he revealed at a press conference addressed also by Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission chairman Ahmed Yar Hiraj.
The information minister reiterated that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government was introducing a number of reforms in all national institutions to ensure transparency as this was promised in the party’s election manifesto.
He added that the AGPR was an important institution which made payments for all public sector procurements and it was noted that public sector purchases were significantly costlier than similar procurements made in the private sector, which was because of corruption in the AGPR. The contractors had to pay bribes for clearance of their bills in this department to get payments.
Says PTI govt introducing reforms in all institutions to ensure transparency
“The suppliers added the over and above amount that was the expected payment rate in the AGPR in their quotations,” the minister said.
He said that similar conditions existed at the provincial level, resulting in colossal loss to the national exchequer as the share of the provincial budget was around 58 per cent of their purchases amounted to around Rs1 trillion annually. Therefore, he added, the level of corruption in official purchases was up to Rs350bn.
“But the serious issue is that this does not include public sector corporations and independent institutions, like the Pakistan International Airlines, National Highway Authority and Sui gas,” the minister said.
“During the past 10 years the national exchequer suffered around Rs4 trillion losses mainly due to malpractices in the AGPR, while the governments of the time took no action to stop these practices as they were also receiving commissions and kickbacks from the system.”
He added that the burden of this corruption is borne by the whole nation in terms of higher taxes and additional loans.
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan neither had his personal business, nor his family was in politics, so he had the moral courage and mandate to rectify these malpractices continuing since many decades.
He said that opposition parties were holding meetings to pressurise Imran Khan to stop the accountability process, but he would never budge because of their tactics.
Mr Hiraj said that there was no bill in the AGPR without this “speed money” and the best way was to delay the payments by unnecessary objections if that money was not paid.
“The government was paying the higher cost due to the corruption of our own people,” he said adding, “It is deplorable that there is no government department that has satisfactory performance.”
He added that there was a need to reform these accounts departments in the federal as well as provincial level and likened the departments to a longstanding illness.
“But I assure you that we will present an improved AGPR in coming months,” he said and explained the recommendations to be made to the prime minister for reforms.
“The AGPR had purchased an electronic operational system around 16 years back, but it has never been implemented,” Mr Hiraj added.
“This corruption is not limited to clearance of bills, but they even fleece payments from other government employees who have to go to AGPR for various official formalities, like leave encashment,” he said. “Corruption has spread like a disease in all government offices.”
Grade 21 and 22 postings are made with the consent of the prime minister, but such postings in account offices are made without the approval of the premier; it has been recommended to seek the endorsement of the prime minister in this cadre too.
The Federal Investigation Agency has been tasked to check assets of certain officials in the AGPR who were openly known to be corrupt.
Replying to questions of media personnel, Senator Faraz said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party had differences of opinion on many issues, but they were only united when they feared the accountability process. “We will also keep a check on the misuse of financial powers by federal secretaries and you will see the results soon.”
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020