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Men from armed forces mostly led accountability body in Pakistan
 
 
Sabir Shah
Friday, October 11, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where the President, Prime Minister and the Opposition leader are all constitutionally involved at the same time in appointing the head of the national anti-graft body, though hardly any notable initiative has ever been undertaken in this part of the world to weed out corruption that keeps spreading like wild fire in the society with every passing minute.

 

A research conducted by “The News International” reveals that unlike most countries, Pakistan has also seen the appointment of four Army generals and a retired Navy Admiral as heads of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) since November 16, 1999.

 

One doesn’t find many precedents like this anywhere on Earth.

 

Lt. General Syed Muhammad Amjad, a close aide of the then Army Chief and Chief Executive (later President) General Musharraf, was appointed the first chief of this the anti-corruption watchdog institution.

 

After General Amjad, former Punjab Governor Lt General (R) Khalid Maqbool, Lt Gen (R) Munir Hafeez, Lt. Gen Shahid Aziz and Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari have also gone on to head this Bureau.

 

Apart from the afore-named Armed Forces personnel, a retired Justice Deedar Hussain Shah and Navid Ahsan, a bureaucrat serving as General Secretary Finance in the Federal Government, were also asked to spearhead NAB.

 

On August 1, 2012, the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee had directed the NAB to probe the allotment of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) quota to four ex-generals who made hay while the sun shone during the tenure of former dictator General (R) Pervez Musharraf.

 

The list included two former chairmen NAB — Lt General (R) Khalid Maqbool and Lt Gen (R) Munir Hafeez — besides former Interior Minister and former Governor Sindh Lt Gen (R) Moinuddin Haider and Lt Gen (R) Saeeduz Zafar, whose name had also echoed in the major scam of Railways.

 

This particular Public Accounts Committee meeting was presided over by Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan at the Parliament House.

 

The now sitting Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif had stated in the meeting under discussion that General (R) Khalid Maqbool, who was the chairman of NAB, had obtained a loan of Rs2 billion from the Bank of Punjab for the LPG business and the loan has not returned to the bank yet.

 

Asif had said on record that two former NAB chairman, Muneer Hafeez and Lt Gen (R) Saeeduz Zafar, had also availed the LPG quota in the name of their spouses.

 

Present on the occasion, the then Chairman NAB Admiral (R) Fasih Bokhari had assured Khawaja Asif that a probe would be initiated. The committee had given a deadline of one month to the NAB for the complaint verification process and probe the whole scam.

 

The PAC members had also questioned the double standards of NAB on the accountability process, asserting that while civilians were arrested, the military personnel were neither probed nor apprehended.

 

The then NAB Chairman Fasih Bukhari had said that under the rules, the NAB could not probe serving military officials as they could only be court martialled by the GHQ and punished, if found guilty.

 

Citing the probe into the scam of National Logistics Cell (NLC), Bukhari had stated that the matter was taken up with the GHQ about three generals who were accused in the NLC scam and he was informed that the NAB could investigate them as they were now retired.

 

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index had ranked Pakistan 139 out of the 176 countries studied.

 

A peek into the anti-corruption mechanisms of countries like the United Kingdom, India, United States, France and Singapore shows that they attach utmost importance to the issue of corruption and are seen devising practical strategies on daily basis to eliminate this menace from their respective societies.

 

In England, the 26-year old Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigates and prosecutes fraud and corruption cases independently, though the value of the alleged fraud has to be more than £1 million to make this agency probe.

 

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index had ranked the United Kingdom 17 out of 176 countries.

 

The Director SFO is appointed by and accountable to the Attorney General, who is responsible to Parliament for this institution and the other Law Departments like the Crown Prosecution Service and the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

 

The British SFO can require any person (or business/bank) to provide any relevant documents (including confidential ones) and answer any relevant questions including ones about confidential matters. The SFO is also the principal enforcer of the Bribery Act 2010.

 

The SFO’s operating budget was £36.35million a year or so ago. It has 300 employees and the cost of running the SFO in the financial year 2010-11 was 64 pence for each member of the British public.

 

According to the May 1, 2012 edition of “The Guardian,” the SFO budget has been trimmed from more than £50million four years ago to £36million for 2010-11.

 

The esteemed British newspaper had stated: “It is projected to be less than £30m in the next two years.”

 

In 2010-11, the SFO global team had assisted over 30 different jurisdictions. In April 2011, £64 million of funds were, or were due to be returned to victims and the average jail sentence handed out in SFO cases was over 30 months.

 

The SFO does succumb to expediencies too. To cite just one precedent, in 2004, the SFO began to investigate the British government’s £43 billion contracts with the Saudi Government between 1985 and 2006, but the probe was hushed up amidst reports that the Saudis would stop sharing counter-terrorist information with the UK if the investigation continued.

 

Under the “Al-Yamamah Arms Deal,” the UK had supplied arms to Saudi Arabia, which in turn, had to deliver of up to 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day to Britain.

 

The prime British contractor was the BAE Systems and its predecessor, British Aerospace Systems.

 

In 2010, the BAE Systems had pleaded guilty to a United States court, to charges of false accounting and making misleading statements in connection with the sales, but the SFO had to drop the inquiry inn its own country.

 

The sitting SFO Director David Green is the former Director of British Revenue and Customs Prosecutions, having a 25 year experience of prosecuting and defending at the Criminal Bar.

 

In India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the foremost investigating police agency.

 

The CBI, involved in major criminal probes, was established in 1941 as the Special Police Establishment, tasked with domestic security. It was renamed the Central Bureau of Investigation in 1963.

 

The CBI is overseen by the Department of Personnel and Training of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions of the Union Government, headed by a Union Minister, who reports directly to the Prime Minister.

 

The CBI is headed by a Director, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer with a rank of Director General of Police or Commissioner of State Police.

 

The Director is selected on the basis of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act 2003. The Central Vigilance Commission is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address corruption.

 

In line with this 2003 Act, a selection committee recommends a panel of officers to select the CBI Director.

 

The selection committee comprises the Chief Vigilance Commissioner as the chairperson, the Vigilance Commissioners as members, Secretary of Home Ministry as a member and Secretary (Coordination and Public Grievances) in the Cabinet Secretariat as a member.

 

Final selection is made by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet from the panel recommended by the selection committee.

 

The current CBI director is the 60-year old Ranjit Sinha, who is an Indian Police Service officer. The tenure of a CBI director is two years.

 

Having 5,666 employees against a sanctioned strength of 6,590, the CBI’s annual budget for 2011-12 was Indian Rs3.04 billion (US$46 million).

 

The CBI is subject to five ministries of the Government of India including the Home Ministry, Department of Personnel and Training, Union Public Service Commission, Law and Justice Ministry and the Central Vigilance Commission.

 

Housed in a Rs1.86 billion 11-storey building in New Delhi, the CBI can be ordered by the high courts and the Supreme Court to investigate an offence alleged to have been committed in a state without the state’s consent.

 

Since 1963, some 25 directors have served the CBI. According to the “Economic Times,” “The Hindu,” “The Outlook India,” “The Times of India,” “NDTV,” “The IBN Live,” “The Statesman” and “The Sunday Guardian” etc, the CBI has also been criticised due to its political overtones, for engaging in nepotism, wrongful prosecution and corruption by both Indian media and politicians.

 

For example, in January 2006, it was discovered that the CBI had quietly unfrozen the Indian Rs210 million bank accounts belonging to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, one of those accused in the 1986 US$1,300 million Bofors scandal which had tainted the government of Rajiv Gandhi. The CBI had accused Quattrocchi and his wife Maria in 2006, but had allegedly facilitated his travel by asking Interpol to take him off its wanted list on April 29, 2009.

 

The CBI has also been accused of supporting the ruling Congress Party against its opposition, the BJP, according to India Today and Indian Express.

 

But despite all these allegations, the CBI has a high conviction rate. In 2011, the conviction rate was 67 per cent and it was 70.8 per cent in 2010, claims its official website and the CBI Annual reports.

 

Since 1971, most Indian states have also had “the Lokayukta,” which is an anti-corruption ombudsman organisation that helps people expose corruption amongst the politicians and government officers.

 

However, due to grey areas in the law, many acts of the LokAyukta have not resulted in criminal or other consequences for those charged.

 

Apart from all this, the “Lokpal Bill, 2011” or a proposed anti-corruption law in India to inquire into corruption allegations against public functionaries and for matters connecting them was passed by the Lower House (Lok Sabha) on December 27, 2011, following protests and hunger strikes led by the famous anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, but it yet to get a nod from the Rajya Sabha (Indian Senate) till date despite a lapse of 17 months.

 

It is imperative to note that in India; at least 12 whistle-blowers have been killed after seeking information under a new Right to Information Act aimed at exposing graft, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from January 2010 through mid-October 2011.

 

According to a 2010 report released by the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, India has lost a staggering $462 billion in illicit financial flaws due to tax evasion and post-independence corruption.

 

In 2012, India was ranked 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

 

According to a report, published in May 2012, Swiss National Bank had estimated that the total amount of deposits in all Swiss banks, at the end of 2010, by Indian citizens was 1.95 billion Swiss Francs, equivalent to Indian Rs92.95 billion or US$2.1 billion.

 

The Swiss Ministry of External Affairs had reportedly confirmed these figures upon request for information by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

 

In America, the United States Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is a separate agency within the Executive branch of the Federal Government.

 

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index had ranked the United States 19 out of 176 countries.

 

The mission of the US Office of Government Ethics is to foster high ethical standards for Executive branch employees, states the official website of this institution.

 

The Director of this agency is appointed by the President after confirmation by the US Senate for a five-year term, thereby overlapping presidential terms at times.

 

The remaining employees of this body are career civil servants.

 

Created by the Ethics in Government act of 1978, this body certifies the financial disclosure reports of Presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate. Over the years, the agency has been successfully reviewed and reauthorised by Congress.

 

According to its website, the US Office of Government Ethics oversees the Federal Executive branch ethics system with a staff of 80 full time equivalent positions and a current budget of less than $14 million.

 

Its current Director is the 42-year old Walter Shaub Junior, who was nominated by President Obama on May 24, 2013.

 

Having started his legal career as a government attorney, Shaub has served in both public and private sectors.

 

In France, the Central Service for Prevention of Corruption was established in 1993, after an increasing number of political scandals had emerged in the country in late 1980s and early 1990s in relation to illicit financing of political parties and campaigns.

 

As a result, some leading politicians had faced criminal charges on the probes conducted by the Central Service for Prevention of Corruption.

 

Consequently, more transparent laws for financing electoral campains gof political parties and awarding public contracts were enacted.

 

Headed by a magistrate of judiciary, this agency is composed of civil servants of various ministries and magistrates from judicial, financial or administrative cadres. Its 2012 budget was 7.42 million euros.

 

According to this agency, in 2012, 193 new corruption cases were investigated by French Public Prosecutors, among which only 29.5 per cent had led to prosecution. The main reasons why less than a third of these cases were prosecuted are that either the investigation concluded that no offence had been committed or there was not sufficient evidence of the perpetration of the offences.

 

Concerning final sentences, the 2012 report had noted a significant rise in the number of condemnations for corruption-related offences (159 in 2011, against 115 in 2010 and 120 in 2009). For example, a major French group was sentenced to pay a fine of 500,000 euros for corruption of foreign officers.

 

Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) was established in 1952 with a mandate is to investigate and prevent corruption in the public and private sector.

 

History has it that corruption was perceived as a way of life in the forties and early fifties in Singapore.

 

The CPIB, separated from the police, derives its powers of investigation from the Prevention of Corruption Act, though the prosecutorial powers vest in the Attorney-General.

 

Singapore’s CPIB is directly subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office and is headed by a director who reports directly to the Prime Minister.

 

CPIB is, therefore, independent of the country’s police and other government agencies to prevent any undue interference in its investigations.

 

The Director (a public servant), who reports to the Prime Minister, is appointed by the President of Singapore.

 

The Cabinet or a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet recommends the most suitable candidate to the President.

 

The President can, however, acting in his discretion, refuse to appoint or revoke the appointment of the Director if he does not concur with the recommendation.

 

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index had ranked Singapore the fifth least corrupt nation out of 176 countries studied.

 

The annual budget of this 88-member body was US $20.9 Million in 2010 and the per capita expenditure had thus stood at US $4.27.