ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered forensic audit of a multi-million-rupee scam in the Establishment Division — the regulator of top bureaucracy — relating to fictitious purchase of stationery.

This was disclosed during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday. The PAC was examining the audit report of the Establishment Divi­sion for 2019-20.

The Establishment Division is responsible for managing the affairs of the bureaucracy and — in turn — ensuring that the affairs of the country are run smoothly. It serves as the nerve-centre of the bureaucracy and its officers act as management consultants for the federal government.

In addition to dealing with postings, transfers, promotions and training, the division undertakes case studies to solve specific management problems, conducts organisational reviews, defines the functions and procedures of various divisions and attached departments. It also looks after all other federal government offices, departments and autonomous organisations.

As per the audit report, the national exchequer suffered a loss of Rs48 million as senior officials of the Establishment Division minted money through “fictitious purchase of stationery and other store items”. The report cited General Financial Rules, which state that “purchase must be made in the most economical manner in accordance with the definite requirement of the public service”.

The report stated that the Establishment Division had floated open tenders during financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18 for the purchase of stationery and other store items. An expenditure of Rs48m was incurred during the financial years 2016-2019.

The procurement was made without approval from the purchase committee. An internal inquiry was conducted in the Establishment Division, but its findings were not shared with the audit team. The division spent Rs20.3m on stationery in 2017, Rs21.5m in 2018 and Rs6m in 2019.

A previous report had obser­ved that “during financial year 2018-19, there was a substantial decrease in expenditure on purchase of stationery”.

The audit held that this was a serious violation of General Financial Rules.

The audit objection was based on a complaint filed with then establishment secretary Ejaz Munir. However, the Establishment Division’s section officer, who had raised the issue, was posted out.

Also, chief finance officer Mohammad Afzal, who had confirmed the financial irregularity and urged the establishment secretary to hold an inquiry, was transferred from the division. The inquiry into the matter has been pending since 2019, while the inquiry officer is proceeding abroad on a scholarship.

Establishment Division Secretary Afzal Latif told the PAC that the internal inquiry had been completed and the report submitted to the prime minister. He said that since a “very senior” officer was also involved in it, the matter was referred to the prime minister.

“The prime minister has perused the case and advised for forensic audit before taking action against the officials responsible for wrongdoing,” he added.

The director general audit told the PAC that the forensic audit had almost been completed and the report would be ready in about a week.

PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain said the committee would take up the matter after submission of the forensic report to the committee.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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