Audit report accuses Sindh govt of committing Rs9.2bn ‘fraud’

Published March 10, 2021
According to the audit report, the Sindh government had allegedly committed over Rs9,242 million fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation during the said period. — AFP/File
According to the audit report, the Sindh government had allegedly committed over Rs9,242 million fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation during the said period. — AFP/File

KARACHI: The director general of Sindh Audit, Miandad Rahoojo, on Tuesday called on Governor Imran Ismail and presented him the audit report of the provincial departments for the year 2020-21 and the special audit report of the provincial ombudsman from 2008-9 to 2018-19.

According to official sources, the audit chief informed the governor that out of total Rs289 billion annual development programme (ADP) for FY 2020-21, the Sindh government only utilized around Rs90bn, which is the ‘lowest’ in the last three years.

Similarly, out of total planned budget of Rs1.3 trillion, the provincial government had so far utilized over Rs894bn ie around 68 per cent.

Over Rs9.2bn misappropriations/fraud

According to the audit report, the Sindh government had allegedly committed over Rs9,242 million fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation during the said period.

Regarding alleged irregularities in different segments, the report said the Sindh government committed over Rs5,270m HR/employees-related irregularities, over Rs41,985m related to procurements, over Rs1,726m irregularities related to management of accounts with commercial banks, over Rs315m irregularities pertaining to service delivery and over Rs122m other irregularities.

The provincial govt has so far utilised Rs90bn out of total Rs289bn ADP allocations during 2020-21

The audit report accused the Sindh government of failing to provide record of billions of rupees for scrutiny.

“The analysis of observations pertaining to government of Sindh revealed that major cases under observation [out of 2,786 formations under 40 Principal Accounts Officers, only 27pc formations were selected for audit scrutiny] were due to non-compliance of SPPRA rules, improper deduction of govt taxes at applicable rates, non-compliance of govt rules and instructions while dealing with HR matters and govt formations’ resistance to audit in terms of non-provision of auditable record, which indicates government’s poor commitment towards transparency in public spending,” read the official papers reviewed by Dawn.

The audit also found issues relating to year-end budget releases resulting into “rush of expenditure in the end of June causing multiple deviations from compliance of rules”.

“Departure from the procedures resulted in non-transparent, un-economical expenditure due to violations of SPPRA rules and blockage of govt funds due to unjustified and irregular advance payments to avoid lapse of funds,” said the audit report.

The report also detected “weak internal controls and poor financial management practices prevailing within the Sindh government”.

It recommended serious efforts to increase revenues and widen the provincial tax base and compliance of rules while spending public money and making fresh appointments.

The audit also called for revisiting budgetary requirements by the Principal Accounts Officers on realistic grounds “in order to avoid unnecessary savings causing blockage of government funds”.

It also suggested timely release of funds coupled with adherence to laws and rules concerned as it would result in “economical cost of development projects besides timely completion”.

Irregularities found in ombudsman’s special audit

The special audit of the Sindh Ombudsman (from 2008-9 to 2018-19) showed alleged serious violations of laws and rules in recruitments and other matters.

The audit accused that six advisers and as many consultants were appointed “without advertisement and eligibility criteria and pointed out the irregular appointment of a consultant, Firoze Khan, as director general-finance since 2013-14 without due process”.

Besides, it said 16 regional directors were appointed without giving any ads and following due process. “Some of the regional directors are working since 2006 on a contract basis,” said the audit report.

The audit report also revealed irregular appointment of six individuals without ads and selection criteria, irregular appointment of 60-plus security interns, irregular appointment of 235 non-gazetted employees without ads and sanctioned strength, irregular increase in pay packages of contractual employees in violation of the finance department notifications and irregular payment of honorarium to contract employees.

It also detected irregular payment of foreign TA-DA during leave period, irregular payments from DDO account worth Rs155.189m and irregular expenditure on repair and maintenance of private residence of the ombudsman.

Audit necessary for transparency: governor

Meanwhile, an official statement said that the governor during his meeting with the DG-Audit observed that effective management of audit was essential to maintain transparency in government agencies and projects.

“Corruption can be curbed by identifying waste and misappropriation of public funds,” he added.

He said that computerisation of the system of salaries of employees and pensions and other dues of retired employees was a ‘good step’.

Mr Ismail believed that timely action on the irregularities identified during the audit could make the performance of the institutions more efficient while the system of auditing public funds could be made more effective.

Separately, DG-Audit (Local Govt) Qadir Bakhsh Baloch called on the governor and presented him the audit report of the LG department for 2020-21.

The governor observed that the government could provide immediate relief to the people through the LG department as public health and hygiene matters were being carried out by the department.

He said the audit process should be conducted “without any discrimination and pressure” as timely detection of any defect was tantamount to protection from any major loss.

He believed that the audit department was of key importance for eradication of corruption in the province and there was a need to make it more active.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2021

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