ISLAMABAD: Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday observed that subsidised items at the utility stores were the right of the poor and underprivileged segment of society only, and its distribution should be transparent through computerised mechanism.

“Everybody else should purchase sugar, wheat and other items at regular rates,” said chairman of the committee, MNA Noor Alam Khan.

The meeting of the PAC was held in Parliament House, pertaining to the Ministry of Industries and Production. The committee discussed audit paras for the year 2019-2020, justification for the rising prices of cars and the working of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC).

It astonished the members that subsidised flour bags were issued in the name of the PAC chairman himself in Peshawar, which showed that the distributing mechanism of the USC was flawed.

USC head told to visit remote areas to ensure sale of approved food items

Mr Khan directed Secretary Ministry of Industries and Production Imdadullah Bosal to probe the matter as to why subsidised flour bags were fraudulently issued in his name.

The committee directed the ministry to ensure the distribution of food items to the poor only. It also directed the managing director of the USC to visit the utility stores, especially in the far-flung areas of Sindh and Balochistan such as Rojanmazari, Dera Ghazi Khan. The committee asked the MD to ascertain whether the utility stores were fulfilling the needs of the people besides checking if only the approved food items were being sold at these locations.

On the issue of increasing vehicles’ prices, the committee expressed displeasure over absence of heads of automobile companies. The chairman directed the secretary Ministry of Industries and Production to ensure the presence of heads of the automobile companies in the next meeting.

Chairman FBR Member Custom and Inland Revenue (FBR), Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Governor, State Bank of Pakistan and Chairman SECP, were also directed to attend the next meeting.

Since the prices of vehicles/cars were going beyond the control of Ministry of Industries and Production, the committee requested the prime minster to allow the import of vehicles/cars to overcome the monopoly of automobile companies.

The committee observed that car manufacturers were sitting over billions of rupees of advance money collected from customers. According to the auditor general’s office, one of the companies had accumulated Rs111 billion in advanced bookings from customers. The AGP’s office also alleged that car manufacturers were withholding data and evidence pertaining to finances.

The committee took notice of employees who were appointed on fake degrees and directed the secretary of the Ministry of Industries and Production to lodge first information reports (FIRs) against them and initiate a drive to make recoveries from them as well.

Action may also be taken against officers who appointed them and did not verify their educational degrees before and after their appointments. The secretary was asked to submit a report within seven days. The committee directed the auditor general of Pakistan to conduct a performance audit of all public sector companies within one month.

On a question raised, the committee issued directions to NAB to use polite and civilised words in communications while seeking help of other departments in the proceedings of inquiries.

The PAC recommended that one of a representative of the audit department should also be included in inquiries being conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2022

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