ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Wednesday decided to debate at length resistance from public sector entities and ministries to the constitutionally mandated scrutiny of their accounts after the Auditor General of Pakistan’s (AGP) office complained that over two dozen entities were refusing audit.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, led by Senator Talha Mahmood, on Wednesday unanimously approved three government bills relating to the State Bank of Pakistan, Banking Services Corporation, Financial Institutions Secure Transactions and Agricultural loans passbooks.
The committee had in its previous meeting asked the AGP to come up with a list of entities which were not allowing their accounts to be audited as the law ministry had pointed out that every rupee paid out of or due to the state was subject to audit under the Constitution. A representative of the law ministry reiterated on Wednesday that after the Public Finance Management Act (PFM), 2019, and even under the Constitution wherever exchequer money was involved it should be open to audit.
Senate panel unanimously okays three govt bills
The AGP on Wednesday placed a report on the entities which refused audit of their accounts. Top of the list is the ministry of finance, which is the custodian of the national kitty. Others included the National Bank of Pakistan, which deals with most of the state revenues and payments, the ministry of religious affairs, the ministry of water resources, Pakistan Railways, Peoples Primary Health Initiative Balochistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Oil & Gas Company and the Labour Department of KP.
Some other key entities included DHA Karachi, POF Welfare Trust under the ministry of defence production, Parco, Mari Gas and Mol-Tal under the ministry of energy, PTCL, Telecom Foundation, Pak-China Investment Company, Pak-Kuwait Investment Company, Pak-Oman Investment Company, Saudi-Pak Industrial and Agriculture Company, Wah Nobel Limited, Pak-Iran Investment Company, Pak-Telecom Employees Trust and Pak-Qatar Investment Limited.
A finance ministry official said its name was being included in the list because a number of joint foreign shareholding companies such as Kuwait Investment Company have been operating with 50/50 per cent shares of Pakistan and foreign government whereas any company with at least 51 percent local shares are considered as public limited company and is bound to get its expenses audited by the AGP.
Upon this the committee directed that companies should sit together by taking on board the Law Division to decide about their status whether these fall under the category of public company or not. The chairman of the committee directed that the matter be included in the agenda of the next meeting, along with complete data and details, so that the issue could be discussed at length.
Senator Mohsin Aziz of the PTI suggested it would be better for these entities to have their own consultations and then report to the committee.
The bills unanimously passed by the panel included the SBP Pakistan Banking Services Corporation Amendment Bill, 2021, Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Purposes Amendment Bill 2021 and Financial Institutions (Secure Transactions) Amendment Bill, 2021.
The SBP’s deputy governor briefed the meeting on State Bank of Pakistan Banking Services Corporation Amendment Bill, 2021, and said the amendments had been proposed to further strengthen the law. After reviewing the bill, the committee reviewed the bill and passed it unanimously.
The committee approved the Amendment Bill, 2021, with respect to loans for agricultural and industrial purposes and it was informed that changes were necessitated by technological advancement as a passbook being used to show the title of land for taking loans by showing in the bank would now be changed into e-passbooks. As there is no legal cover to e-commerce passbook, the amendment would provide legal cover and make the system easier for farmers.
Amendments to the Financial Institutions (Secure Transactions) Amendment Bill, 2021, proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, were cleared by the committee unanimously.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021