Auditor identifies financial discrepancies in RTS

Published March 18, 2021
Photo of the board showing election results uploaded through the Results Transmission System after the 2018 election. ─ DawnNewsTV/File
Photo of the board showing election results uploaded through the Results Transmission System after the 2018 election. ─ DawnNewsTV/File

• ECP, Nadra signed agreement on electronic result system • Audit-para blames irregularity on weak internal control, poor contract management

ISLAMABAD: The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has pointed out financial irregularities in the ‘controversial’ electronic Result Transmission System (RTS) that was introduced in 2018 general election but failed to function.

The system continues to haunt the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

As per the audit report submitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the ECP had on Feb 18, 2018 signed an agreement to execute the RTS.

The ECP was required to release Rs182.58 million to Nadra on completion of the assignment.

The audit observed that “the management entered into an agreement with the ECP for the preparation of software ‘Electronic Result Transmission System’ on Feb 12, 2018 against a lump sum amount of Rs182.584 million. The proposed Result Transmission System would be a comprehensively developed system that would enable presiding officers at polling stations to record and save results in the system and electronically transmit them to respective returning officers by their mobile phones. The returning officers thereafter will review, compile and transmit the result to the ECP by using a web-based application”.

The audit report pointed out that “the software was to be used in the general elections in July 2018. An amount of Rs130 million is still recoverable from the ECP due to some technical issues in the software”.

Moreover, Nadra sustained a loss of Rs4 million on account of excessive cost incurred on the project compared to the contracted amount, the report added.

ECP in 2018 conducted a pilot project of RTS in NA-4 (Peshawar) where the presiding officers entered result into the application along with the picture of FORM XIV by using specialised mobile application which was transmitted to the ECP server.

The pilot project of RTS was also conducted in PS-114 Karachi by-election which was successfully implemented.

However, the system did not work on July 25, 2018 during the counting and transmission of election results.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad had appeared on TV well after midnight just to inform the nation that the RTS had “collapsed”.

He announced that the commission was returning to the traditional method of manually tabulating the results and, therefore, an inordinate delay in the release of unofficial results was expected.

On the other hand Nadra — the creators of the RTS mobile app — claimed that the system was “fully functional” even after the news conference of the ECP secretary.

The director general audit highlighted the audit-para before the PAC on Wednesday.

The committee chairman, Rana Tanveer Hussain, deferred the discussion on the matter since the Nadra chairman was not in attendance.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, however, highlighted that the audit para was of immense importance as the RTS worth Rs182 million had collapsed during the counting of the results and generated controversy.

The audit pointed out that “the irregularity occurred due to weak internal control and poor contract management, resulting in loss to Nadra” and recommended inquiry into the matter.

In an earlier meeting of the departmental accounts committee, Nadra took the plea that delayed and limited release of funds incapacitated the ECP in retiring their obligations and the same was the reason of delay in payment. Nadra further said Rs82 million out of Rs130 million had been recovered while serious efforts were being made for the recovery of the remaining outstanding amount of Rs47.9 million.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021

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