Chairman moves to empower PAC to penalise secretaries

Published January 11, 2021
No action has been taken on 24,000 audit paras of the PAC over the last decade, according to sources.  — AFP/File
No action has been taken on 24,000 audit paras of the PAC over the last decade, according to sources. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) — the apex accountability forum of the parliament — seeks powers for the committee to penalise the federal secretaries for failing to act upon its audit reports.

No action has been taken on 24,000 audit paras of the PAC over the last decade, according to sources.

The PAC chairman believes that after acquiring powers to punish the federal secretaries, the committee would be in a position to force them to take action on audit paras.

However, this move would offend the bureaucracy and it is likely to resist giving such powers to the committee.

The sources said that PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain had consulted some members of the committee on a proposal to write a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan to seek amendments to the rules to empower the PAC to suspend the federal secretaries because the committee was of the view that the bureaucracy created hurdles in disposal of the audit paras apparently to save their colleagues.

No action has been taken on committee’s 24,000 audit paras over the past decade

When contacted, the PAC chairman said that it was not the committee that was to be blamed for such a huge backlog since it had to rely on the federal secretaries, who were principal accounting officers of their respective ministries and divisions.

“We are seeking amendments to the PAC rules to empower the committee to penalise delinquent bureaucrats as at present we cannot take any action against them, except issuing directives for downgrading their Annual Confidential Reports (ACR).

“The principal accounting officers of the ministries are BS-22 officers and downgrading their ACRs cannot affect them in anyway; therefore, we are seeking powers to suspend a delinquent officer and make him an officer on special duty (OSD),” he said.

The bureaucracy on the other hand feels that this is an unreasonable demand since there are ample powers available with the PAC to perform its functions as per its constitutional mandate.

According to a senior bureaucrat, the PAC can refer the case of any bureaucrat to the National Accountability Bureau or the Federal Investigation Agency since representatives of both organisations regularly attend the committee’s meetings.

In addition to the pendency of action in other cases, the audit paras of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Petroleum Division related to recoveries of over Rs3.6 trillion (Rs1.8tr of the FBR and Rs1.8tr of Petroleum Division) have been stuck up since the ministries and their subordinate divisions are reportedly not vigorously pursuing the court cases. As a consequence, the PAC has to wait for the adjudication of the cases to take up the relevant audit paras.

As far as pendency of action on PAC audit paras is concerned, by August 2018 action on 18,500 audit paras was pending and about 2,000 to 2,200 new paras came every year, raising the total number of pending paras to around 20,500 to 20,900.

So far as the recovery of over Rs3.6tr is concerned, litigation in the Supreme Court, Islamabad High Court, Lahore High Court, Sindh High Court, Peshawar High Court and Balochistan High Court has barred the PAC to take up the relevant audit paras.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2021

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