NA committee cancels crucial meeting on FATF, circular debt

Updated 21 Jul 2020

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An official said the opposition members were reportedly engaged in political activities in Lahore. — AFP/File
An official said the opposition members were reportedly engaged in political activities in Lahore. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A scheduled meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs on Monday to discuss Financial Action Task Force (FATF), circular debt and official legislative business was eventually cancelled by its chairman Faiz Ullah Kamoka due to poor response from its members and the Ministry of Finance.

Out of the 21 members, only Faheem Khan of PTI and Ali Pervaiz of PMLN showed up. Two joint secretaries of the finance ministry were also present.

The NA committee chairman and members waited for more than half an hour for another two members to complete the quorum and begin the proceedings. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Secretary Finance and Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar did not show up at the meeting.

Finally, the standing committee chairman announced that there was no choice left but to cancel the session due to the absence of members and senior officials of relevant ministries.

The four bills on the meeting agenda — all relating to the FATF requirements — included the Government Savings Bank (Amendment) Bill 2020, Post Office Cash Certificate (Amendment) Bill 2020, Post Office National Savings Certificate (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) (Amendment) Bill 2020.

An official said the opposition members were reportedly engaged in political activities in Lahore but it was strange on part of the Trea­sury members to abstain from pushing through government sponsored legislative items.

The committee had already decided unanimously a few months ago not to discuss the legislative business of the finance ministry owing to continued absence of finance adviser from the standing committee meetings. This time, even secretary finance did not turn up who was required to personally give a briefing on circular debt.

Joint secretary budget — a grade 20 officer from the finance ministry — attended the meeting. There were five agenda items related to the ministry including four pieces of proposed legislation related to government’s saving schemes and financial institution secured transactions.

An official said the senior officials of the finance ministry had been called to the Prime Minister’s Office for a meeting with PM Imran Khan. The industries minister had requested to postpone his agenda from the due to his other engagements with the PM.

FATF has set September 2020 deadline for Pakistan to comply with the 27-point Action Plan. The federal government is in the process of meeting the remaining legal requirements and some changes relating to companies act are under review of the federal cabinet.

Read: Pakistan ensuring completion of FATF action plan: Shaikh

The Securities and Exchange Comm­ission of Pakistan (SECP) has proposed amendments in the Companies Act aimed at prohibiting issuance of bearer shares, bearer share warrants and similar equity or debt securities of bearer nature, as well as the manner of registration and cancellation in case any such bearer securities have been issued. This amendment is aimed at preventing the misuse of companies from money laundering or terrorist financing abuses in line with the recommendations issued by the Financial Action Task Force

Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation Report issued in October 2019 by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering also highlighted certain deficiencies in the regulatory framework relating to the misuse of bearer shares and bearer share warrants.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020