I had expressed concerns regarding the first three amendments to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission in my February 2016 article, “Concerns on KP ‘ehtesab’”. However, we now have another set of amendments that are changing the entire structure of the commission.
The KP Ehtesab Commission has failed to secure a single conviction to date despite having a strict time limit set for each step of the process including the one imposed on the Ehtesab court for the purpose of adjudication. Not surprisingly, the government has also exhibited incompetence or lack of interest in the issue.
The government of KP was supposed to issue the rules under the law within 15 days. However, there is no sign of those rules even though two years have passed. The absence of rules has become a barrier to the recruitment of the commission’s employees. The appointment of a director general (DG), as provided in the bill, is a lengthy process and the commission is still working under an acting DG.
The commission has instituted 24 references of worth Rs3 billion against 79 accused. However, the commission in its report claims to have ‘prevented’ corruption and saved Rs528 million of public money in 11 different schemes. A complete performance report of the commission is available to the public. Over time, there have been significant changes in the organisational structure of the commission. These may have adversely affected the commission’s performance.
The originally envisioned commission had parallel power centres. One of them was advisory or supervisory, while the other was operational. The advisory commission was headed by a chief Ehtesab commissioner and four other commissioners (who were the body’s members as well), while the operational wing was headed by the director general who was assisted by six other directors from various wings.
An amendment was issued which created a clear distinction between both power centres. It also explained how power sharing on various matters was to take place. The amendment replaced the word ‘commission’ with ‘directorate general’ in many sections of the bill. Many of the things previously associated with the ‘commission’ now stand associated with the ‘directorate general’ under the leadership of its DG. This was a clear transition and reshuffling of powers and functions within the Ehtesab Commission.
The year 2017 brought in some more amendments that further re-shaped the Ehtesab Commission. These were made to ensure the organisational structure of the commission improved. The new amendments removed the ‘legislative committee’ and the ‘search and scrutiny committee’ which had the task to select candidates for the positions of commissioners, the DG, the prosecutor general and the director of internal monitoring and complaints. Now a ‘selection committee’ – comprising judges of the administrative committee of the Peshawar High Court and the advocate general – has been introduced for the same job. All the powers previously held by the committees have been transferred to the new committee through the new amendments. This new committee will now be responsible for recommending candidates to the government for appointment.
Unlike various other selection committees, especially the VC selection committee, the recommendations of the selection committee are binding on the government. The commission of five members has now been reduced to two members who will continue to work till the end of their tenure. However, by reducing the number of commissioners, some powers of the commission – the powers to appoint and remove directors, conduct inquiry into allegations of misconduct and abuse of authority and oversee the performance of the commission – have been transferred to the selection committee.
The removal of the DG, the PG and the director of internal investigation and complaints has also evolved over time. Initially, the five-member commission could remove the DG, the PG or the director of internal investigation and complaints if they were found liable for any misconduct or abuse of authority. This one-step process of removal was amended and made into a two-stage process. In the amendment, the commission was to provide its report to the Peshawar High Court and a divisional bench, which would then determine and decide whether or not the employees in question were to be removed. With the provision of the selection committee, this job has now been transferred to the committee.
With a delay of over two years, rules to be framed under the act by the government are still pending. These rules are to administer the selection and recruitment of staff and officers for the DG. With this new amendment, the selection committee has to complete the process for the appointment of the DG in 120 days. A very reasonable parliamentary role has been transferred to the judiciary.
With the government entering its final year of the term, there is nothing that can be sold as a success in terms of punishing those involved in corruption. How many more years will it take for us to see an active and efficient institution that will run smoothly to eliminate corruption in ‘ninety days’ as promised?
The writer is an engineer.