ISLAMABAD, Aug 9: A sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was informed on Tuesday that details of a major chunk of the government money spent through political agents in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) were not presented for mandatory government audit because these fell under the head of secret funds. To the surprise of the committee members, Fata’s Additional Chief Secretary Fazal Karim Khattak said that in the `national interest’ details of secret funds routed through political agents for the development of tribal areas could not be shared with audit officials. However, Mr Khattak, said if the PAC wanted to know how these funds were utilised he was willing to share the information with them.
The committee met here at the parliament house with Yasmin Rehman of the PPP in the chair. Noor Alam Khan of PPP and Pervez Malik of the PML-N also attended the meeting.
Mr Khattak told the committee that besides government budgetary allocations, political agents routinely generated funds at their own through various sources, which he didn’t elaborate upon during the meeting despite repeated requests by PAC members. On hearing this, the committee chairperson, Ms Rehman, expressed her surprise over the running of government affairs in Fata.
“As far as we PAC committee members know wherever a government official and funds are involved, their audit by the government auditors is mandatory and nobody can absolve himself of this responsibility,” she said.
The committee members unanimously recommended a special audit of all political agents covering their last five financial years. In his remarks, Mr Alam said each and every detail about government spending and generation of funds by political agents as claimed by Fata officials should be put on paper in black and white. The committee members said it was inconceivable to think of a government official generating funds on whatever basis and then claiming that those funds were not open to audit.
“We want each and every detail regarding public money at the disposal of political agents,” the committee members said.
It may be recalled here that a number of federal government departments were carrying secret funds whose utilisation could not be audited. However, the PAC has issued special instructions to the Auditor General of Pakistan to do a special audit of all such government organisations.
In his remarks, Mr Alam, a PPP MNA from Peshawar, alleged that Fata Secretariat was full of political appointments. He said that for appointments of political agents in Fata heavy bribes were paid that was the cause of rampant corruption in the area.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Noor Alam said corruption was not a new thing in Fata and the menace had been plaguing the region over the past several decades direct under the nose of top government functionaries. He said not only political agents which were considered key postings, even low level postings and transfers involved powerful backers because of high level of illegal earnings. He said be it the charging of utility bills, taxes on movements of vehicles or custom, nothing was coming to the national exchequer. They charge Rs300 per household as electricity bills, but nothing is deposited in the national kitty, the lawmaker said, adding that same was the case of the movement of transport vehicles across the boarder and nobody knew how much money was charged from them.
“I have seen people becoming owners of land cruisers within weeks of their postings in this region,” Mr Alam said.
In response to a question, Fata’s Additional Secretary confirmed that foreigners travelling to Peshawar and tribal areas were not allowed entry until issued with special no objection certificates.