Public Accounts Committee chief accuses NA speaker of hampering accountability

Published September 3, 2021
A combination photo of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser (L) and Public Accounts Committee chairperson Rana Tanveer Hussain (L). — Photo courtesy GOP Twitter/ NA website
A combination photo of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser (L) and Public Accounts Committee chairperson Rana Tanveer Hussain (L). — Photo courtesy GOP Twitter/ NA website

ISLAMABAD: Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain has accused the government and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser of hampering the accountability of ministries’ spending from the exchequer.

The PAC, an apex parliamentary accountability forum of the country, comprises 29 members from the treasury and opposition benches of both houses of parliament.

During a PAC meeting on Thursday, Mr Hussain said that the speaker had stopped the committee from examining a Rs118 billion contract reached between the Pakistan Post and a leading bank for digitalisation of postal services.

Under the contract, the bank will invest in technology, infrastructure and capacity enhancement of the Pakistan Post with the objective of enabling its financial services in far-flung areas of the country.

Last year, the PAC had sought a report on the matter. However, Mr Hussain told the meeting that the speaker had stopped the PAC from taking up the matter.

He described the speaker’s move as obstructing the PAC from scrutiny of the government’s spending to ensure transparency.

Earlier, the PAC was stopped from taking up suo motu notice of purported Rs122bn losses caused by the indecision on timely import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in recent months.

Likewise, the PAC chairman, under pressure of the committee’s members from the ruling party, had to recall a directive he had issued to the National Accountability Bureau for investigating irregularities in the private housing society of senior minister of Punjab Aleem Khan.

While the chairman was discussing the matter with the PAC members and telling them that the speaker on several occasions had issued rulings against proceedings of the committee, PTI lawmaker Sanaullah Khan Masti Khel asked whether the issue of Pakistan Post’s contact had been raised in an audit report.

Mr Hussain replied that besides audit reports, the PAC could take up public petitions and order special audit of any project.

“We are taking up this issue in accordance with relevant provisions of the PAC rules,” he said, adding that they wanted to ensure transparency in the matter.

The PAC also took up the audit report of the commerce ministry. The committee noted that the auditor general of Pakistan had included the peripheral matter in the audit report and that too without proper discussion at the departmental accounts committee.

Additional Secretary of Commerce Rafi Basheer told the committee that since Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood had tested positive for Covid-19, he had been quarantined.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021

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