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Poor audit restricts accountability in KP

November 24, 2012

PESHAWAR, Nov 23: The poor audit of the government departments’ accounts seems to have taken the sting out of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, which consequently has to drop the audit paras against the departments and the relevant officials.

Officials told Dawn on Friday that usually, the audit paras were presented before PAC just to fulfill the constitutional requirements.

They said in many cases, the auditors did not take stand on their own paras and rescued officials of the line departments during the PAC meetings, forcing lawmakers to drop important paras.

A source in the audit department said in most cases, ‘unfit paras’ were brought to the committee just to accomplish legal formalities that put the PAC members in awkward position and officials, who allegedly involved in misappropriation of funds and misuse of powers got benefits.

Last month, around two kilogrammes heavy working paper containing 22 audit paras against the provincial Environment Department for 2010-11 was presented in a PAC meeting, but only two of these paras were admitted for scrutiny. The committee ordered recovery of amount from the relevant officials on these paras.

On the other hand, 13 audit paras were dropped against the department, while verified cases were also included in the working papers.

A case regarding non-recovery of fine valuing Rs 2.45 million from the Forest Development Corporation, which has been pending with the high court, was also placed before PAC.

Audit paras brought against police and Work and Services Department regarding irregularities, misappropriation of funds and misuse of powers also faced the same fate in the recent meetings of the PAC due to poor scrutiny.

In background interviews, officials and members of PAC expressed reservations about the auditors’ performance, which, according to them, was making the committee’s role ineffective vis-à-vis Auditor General of Pakistan’s constitutional assignment.

A senior officer in the assembly secretariat said the role of PAC was to give guidelines to the line departments, strengthen financial system and fiscal discipline. He said PAC had nothing to do with recovery of misappropriated funds and curtail irregularities in the departments and organisations.

He said PAC itself was also not satisfied with the auditors’ performance.

In a report, the committee observed that the Audit Department didn’t bring qualitative and quantitative paras to the committee for consideration and that audit of a department’s only 10 per cent accounts was conducted in the financial year against allocation of billions of funds to it.

Sources said a large number of auditors was presently out of their parent assignments and went to other departments on deputation.

“Majority of the auditors prefer to go on deputation to departments of their choice,” said an official in the assembly secretariat.

Giving an example in support of their argument, the official said audit paras had been brought against the Forest Department where an auditor had served on deputation as the director (finance) for three years and when he rejoined the parent department after completion of the deputation period, he sat in the PAC meetings to represent his parent department.

He said many auditors had joined police, health, works and services, forest, education, hospitals and other departments on deputation for three years.

When contacted, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Director General (Audit) Sikandar Khan confirmed that currently, six auditors had gone on deputation to other departments.

He said Auditor General of Pakistan and Accountant General recommended name of the auditors to go to other departments on deputation across the country.

Officials said the auditors often used various tactics when they were sent for the audit of a department and pressurised the department’s head to bring them on deputation to the same department otherwise they would draft audit paras against him.However, senior officers of the audit department blamed PAC for inefficiency and said auditors had no role in dropping paras against any officer or department. They said PAC should be proactive to stop leakage of funds.

“The auditors’ role is to publish the report and legally, they should not sit in PAC meeting,” said a senior auditor.

He alleged that the forum was used for bargaining with the officers and selective accountability was conducted in PAC.