Row between engineering council, AGP over audit of accounts

Updated 30 Jul 2020

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Pakistan Engineering Council insists private firm should carry out the job. — AFP/File
Pakistan Engineering Council insists private firm should carry out the job. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two top regulating bodies — the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) — have locked horns over the audit of accounts of the engineering regulator.

Informed sources told Dawn that despite repeated requests by the AGP to make its accounts available to it, the PEC is refusing to get them audited by the country’s top auditor — a constitutional body — on the grounds that its audit by a private firm of its choice should be validated by the AGP.

The AGP has claim over audit responsibility of all government wings, agencies, regulators, autonomous and semi-autonomous corporations and companies wherever the public money is involved.

The matter landed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)which, on the PEC’s request, allowed the council to conduct its audit from a private firm on the condition that the audit report must be endorsed by the AGP. The PEC agreed and then got its accounts audited by a private firm and dispatched the report to the director general of Federal Audit for endorsement.

The DG Federal Audit, however, did not accept it, terming it against rules as the PEC was a government statutory body whose parent ministry was the Ministry of Science and Technology. Hence, it falls under the audit jurisdiction of the AGP which is a responsible constitutional body liable to conduct audit of all departments falling under the government of Pakistan.

PEC insists private firm should carry out the job

The DG said the PEC must also observe rules and provide the AGP access to its accounts for audit.

Interestingly, the minutes of the PAC meeting did not confirm the PEC’s stance. In fact, the record shows the PEC repeatedly complained to the PAC chairman that minutes of the committee’s Feb 19 meeting did not concede its request for private audit.

The PEC wrote to the PAC that the issue had been discussed at the committee’s meeting wherein “it was unanimously decided that the PEC having been established under an Act of Parliament should present its statements audited by a chartered accountant firm before the AGP for certification and compliance”.

Under this decision, the PEC submitted its audit report to the science and technology ministry on April 29 and thus complied with the PAC directives. However, the director general of audit sent an ‘audit intimation’ to the PEC in ‘contradiction’ to the PAC’s decision, the council reported and conceded that minutes of the PAC meeting also did not clearly capture the decision that had been made by the committee.

The PAC said it had also raised objections over the draft minutes of the meeting, but even the corrigendum issued by the committee again “did not capture the actual decision of the PAC”.

Under an Act of Parliament in 1976, the PEC was set up for the regulation of engineering profession and education in the country.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020