KARACHI: Alerted by a recent National Accountability Bureau probe into pension funds and reports of ‘systemic anomalies’ over the past one decade, the Sindh government has asked the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to conduct a forensic audit of pension benefits disbursed from the Accountant General (AG) of Sindh and District Accounts Offices (DAOs) from the financial year 2011-12 to 2020-21, it emerged on Friday.

“Finance Department believes that in order to fully grasp the extent of misappropriation on account of pensionery benefits, establishment of charge with evidence and to fix criminal charges on delinquents, comprehensive forensic audit of all disbursing offices of pensionery funds i.e. AG Sindh and DAOs (all) in Sindh had become absolutely indispensible,” writes Finance Secretary Sajid Jamal Abro in a letter sent to the AGP.

The letter reviewed by Dawn had drawn attention of the AGP towards “fraudulent and illegal payments of pension benefits disbursed by some of the DAOs through commercial banks, especially DAO-Hyderabad, which came to light after NAB conducted enquiry and investigation”.

The official correspondence pointed out that prior to pension’s Direct Credit System (DCS), pension disbursement was one of the key responsibilities of DAOs/AG Sindh, and National Bank of Pakistan.

Finance dept wants to know exact extent of misappropriation during 10 years

“The manual system was working reasonably well until financial year 2009-10, but since then, reports of systemic anomalies came to the notice of the finance department and AG-Sindh,” said the letter.

It has been stated that during financial year 2010-21, as per record, Controller General of Accounts (CGA) conducted an enquiry in February 2011 on “misappropriation on account of pension/GP Fund payment, wherein ‘departmental action’ was taken by Finance Department and AG Sindh and officials were penalized”.

Initially, the finance department had explored the possibility of getting audit through a private firm. However, the officials concerned came to the conclusion that an audit by a private firm might not bring the desirable results as they did not have required experience and expertise to this effect.

“In a meeting of senior officers of FD and AG Sindh, it was observed that conducing forensic audit of pensionery benefits through private firm would not produce fruitful results as rules and procedures regulating pensionery benefits are generally applicable to civil servants and private firms do not have such experience and expertise to carry out forensic audit,” opined the finance secretary.

Therefore, he asked the AGP to order a forensic audit of the pension funds for the period from 2011-12 to 2020-21 through a team of experienced officers so that “responsibility could be fixed upon delinquent officers/officials”.

The sources said that NAB was probing a Rs1.16 billion pension scandal in Hyderabad only.

They added that annual burden of pension on Sindh’s finance was Rs160 billion.

The sources said that ‘systemic anomalies’ in the pension emerged in 2009 when the government involved commercial banks for disbursing of pension benefits as previously only the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) was entitled.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2022

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