• Expresses no confidence in institution
• Cabinet forms body to look into Broadsheet’s revelations
• Tabish told to continue working as SAPM on power
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday expressed no confidence in the office of Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying that corruption amounting to over Rs180 billion had been unearthed in the institution, according to Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
A cabinet meeting, presided over by the prime minister, decided to form an inter-ministerial committee in the light of recent revelation of the owner of UK-based assets recovery firm, Broadsheet LLC, that some people, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had tried to influence the inquiry.
The cabinet also considered lifting ban on export of wheat and wheat flour to Afghanistan to eliminate smuggling and generate revenue through exports.
A participant of the meeting told Dawn on condition of anonymity that Prime Minister Khan was annoyed with the AGP’s performance and was of the view that it made audit paras only for news headlines and not to improve working of relevant departments.
Some of the paras, he said, were being raised in the audit reports for over a decade and nothing was being done to address them.
Another source quoted the prime minister as saying: “Audit paras of those departments are removed which bribe audit officials while paras of those are carried forward which fail to appease the officials.”
He said the prime minister informed the meeting that on receiving complaints, he had ordered a probe and found corruption of more than Rs180bn in the AGP office.
Later, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, in a press conference held after the cabinet meeting, said amendments to the relevant laws were approved to enhance powers of the AGP and ensure transparency.
He said after the amendments, the AGP’s purview would be extended to autonomous bodies which had till now been getting their accounts audited from private firms.
“Some of the audit paragraphs are about procedural issues which when reported create unnecessary sensation,” he said, adding that the functioning of AGP would be digitalised and automated and issuance of cheques would be done through automation, with reduced human involvement to increase transparency.
Mr Faraz said the government was vigorously working on institutional reforms as promised in its manifesto and the cabinet had decided that its details be shared with the public.
He said most institutions were following obsolete methods which compromised efficiency, transparency and accountability.
The minister said the PM’s Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain informed the meeting that over 100 federal government institutions had either been merged or abolished to reduce burden on the exchequer.
He said the cabinet was informed that about 71,000 posts from grade 1 to 16 which had remained vacant for over a year would be abolished.
“After passage of the 18th Amendment, many ministries were devolved but the number of federal government employees increased,” he added.
In view of the fresh revelation of Broadsheet LLC’s Kaveh Maussavi that his assets recovery firm was influenced by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others and that it had evidence of money laundering by some other Pakistanis, Prime Minister Khan formed an inter-ministerial committee to ascertain the matter.
The prime minister discussed the issue during ‘zero hour’, after completing discussion on the agenda of the meeting, and in the presence of cabinet members only.
“The cabinet formed an inter-ministerial committee, which will reveal details of the individuals mentioned in the Broadsheet scandal,” the minister said, adding that Prime Minister Khan had now decided to make the names public after thorough scrutiny of the available material.
Mr Faraz said the cabinet was briefed about the steps being taken to control smuggling of petroleum products.
The cabinet was informed that oil smuggling had inflicted Rs180bn loss to the exchequer, caused environmental pollution and damaged engines of vehicles.
“The cabinet was informed that a crackdown had been launched with 192 pumps having been sealed so far,” he said.
The minister said the prime minister expressed his annoyance over the killing of Osama Satti, a student, at the hands of the police in Islamabad.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar had raised the issue in the meeting.
A joint investigation team (JIT) formed to probe Osama Satti’s death had presented its report to the interior secretary. However, the prime minister expressed the resolve to conduct a new probe if the youth’s family was not satisfied with the JIT’s findings.
The minister quoted the prime minister as saying: “An inquiry will be conducted to the satisfaction of Osama Satti’s family.”
The information minister said the cabinet discussed legal measures to ensure that in future no province created shortage of edible commodities by not releasing its share, as the Sindh government did which resulted in wheat crisis.
A cabinet member said the government was considering lifting ban on export of wheat and flour to Afghanistan to curb smuggling.
The meeting was told that 700,000 tonnes of wheat was being smuggled to Afghanistan yearly, therefore, export should be allowed so that the commodity could be sent there through proper channel.
PM meets Tabish Gohar
Prime Minister Khan met Tabish Gohar and directed him to continue serving as his special assistant on power.
Mr Gohar had recently sent his resignation to the prime minister from Dubai due to personal reasons.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021