Article by: Ashraf Malkham
ISLAMABAD – Elite public auditors have found financial irregularities to the tune of PKR 5,287 billion within the federal government over the first year in the saddle of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who rose to power blaming corruption for all ills and prom- ising clean governance.
The report, compiled by the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) and laid before the Parliament, concerns the audit year 2019-20 (fiscal year 2018-19) and covers about a fifth of the federal government. This means the magnitude of financial impropriety for the whole government is likely much larger – comparable if not worse than PKR 15.67 trillion recorded for the previous year.
Laid before the Parliament with the approval of President of Pakistan, the report highlights a series of violation of rules and regulations, non-production of record, weaknesses of internal control, misappropriation or overpayment of public funds, and negligence.
The DG Audit has the mandate to conduct an audit of 150 formations working under the Power Division. Out of these, 95 formations were audited for the report and audit objection, embezzlement, misappropriation, fraud, theft, irregularities, violation of regulation, and recoveries to the tune of PKR 2,960 billion were unearthed.
The second most irregular Ministry mentioned in the report is the Ministry of Water Resources where cases of financial impropriety stood at PKR 1,142 billion.
Cases of financial impropriety in the FBR (including Inland Revenue and Customs) come to PKR 196.6 billion. The Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry also figure prominently in the list with irregularities amounting to PKR 140 billion. Pakistan Railways is another giant where AGP reports cases of irregularities of PKR 23.50 billion.
The report, a copy of which is available with the TTI (The Truth International), further shows that AGP has the mandate to audit 2,723 formations of sixty PAOs (Principal Accounting Officers) of the federal government. But the audit of 325 formations comprising forty PAOs were conducted having a total expenditure of PKR 346.754.
In terms of percentage, the audit coverage (compliance audit) was 19.34 percent. According to report, cases of misappropriation and embezzlement and fictitious payments and irregularities were highlighted to the tune of PKR 381.4 billion.
The situation in ministries dealing with construction work is no better. Audit of 76 formations of SPAOs/Ministries was conducted in entities like National Highway Authority, Capital Development Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, Public Works, Estate Office, Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation, Higher Education Commission, etc. In total cases of PKR 31.7 billion have been highlighted in the report prepared by AGP.
About the Defence Services the report stated out of 3,882 formations working under two PAOs, an audit of 27 formations was conducted and the number of cases highlighted was PKR 130.7 billion. Cases to the tune of PKR 97 billion have been highlighted in Social Safety Programs like Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Pakistan Baitul Mal, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources, Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution, Overseas Pakistani Foundation, Overseas Employment Corporation, Workers Welfare Fund, NIRC, Bureau of Immigration, and Zakat Collection and Controlling Agencies.
Financial impropriety in Public Sector Enterprises unearthed by the AGP stands at PKR 52.6 billion. Among the institutions covered were PASSCO, Korangi Fisheries Harbour Authority, Pakistan Tobacco Board, Pakistan Stone Development Company, Pakistan Gems, and Jewellery Development Company, Pakistan Steel Mills, Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, National Fertilizer Corporation, PIA Company, House Building Finance Corporation, National Insurance Company Limited, NLC, NESPAK, NADRA, Biological Production Division, Pakistan Television Corporation, PBC and Pakistan Science Foundation.
The report should give the Pakistani citizenry something to think about, many of whom voted PTI in the 2018 general election in the hope it would steer Pakistan towards transparency and financial accountability. In practice, the PTI government has shown a clear lack of capacity as well as the political will to tackle such weighty matters.
This should also serve as food for thought for the Pakistani political class: The promises you make on the campaign trail become the yardsticks against which your performance is measured once you are in power.