PESHAWAR: An interesting situation has emerged after the decision of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government to abolish the much-publicised Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission (KPEC).
The previous PTI government had established the KPEC with lot of fanfare as it was seen an innovative move by the party head Imran Khan to tackle corruption at the provincial level.
The newly elected PTI government said the anti-graft body had been disbanded for failing to curb corruption as it didn’t perform well. However, the KPEC claimed to have achieved success despite amendments that took away its powers and made it weak.
After the recent cabinet meeting, the then spokesman for the provincial government Shaukat Yousafzai said at a press briefing along with Finance Minister Taimoor Saleem Jhagra that the commission was abolished as it had failed to deliver.
He said the Law Department would decide about the cases pending with the KPEC.
However, he denied that the money of the taxpayers was wasted on the establishment of the KPEC.
An official of the KPEC told The News that a controversy was created during the rule of the previous PTI government when its first Director General retired Lt Gen Hamid Khan stepped down in February 2016 after his powers were curtailed.
Since February 2016, the government didn’t appoint the director general on regular basis. The acting director general, stated to be the relative of a senior PTI provincial leader, ran the KPEC without achieving much.
The tug of war between its two organs, including the directorate and commissioners, and amendments to the law governing it virtually paralysed the accountability body.
The PTI government’s spokesman Shaukat Yousafzai said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Anti-Corruption Establishment would remain intact and the government would strengthen the two organizations after disbanding KPEC. On the other hand, claiming success of KPEC and highlighting its achievements, its senior prosecutor Lajbar Khan told The News that the KPEC saved about Rs5.4 billion for the provincial government. He claimed that 30 references related to corruption and corrupt practices of about Rs3 billion were under trial in the Ehtesab courts.
He added that the situation would have been different if a regular director general and commissioners had been appointed in time.
He termed the amendments in the KPEC Act unnecessary and said these weakened the commission.
He said the powers of the commission to arrest a suspect were curtailed as it was required to seek permission from the head of the department of an accused.
An insider in the commission said that under acting director general with all officials on contract basis and frequent amendments to the act and staff shortage were considered major hurdles in KPEC’s functioning.
He said due to these loopholes, the KPEC has yet to work properly and that was the reason all the arrested government officials and lawmakers allegedly charged with corruption have been freed. He pointed out that one of them was former PTI MPA Ziaullah Afridi.
On the other hand, the fate of 30 references of corruption and corrupt practice submitted in the Ehtesab courts and the future of over 250 employees of the KPEC remains uncertain.
The employees have decided to move the high court against the government move to secure their jobs. The majority of the employees are contractual.
The KPEC was established through an act of the provincial assembly in 2014 as an independent and autonomous body to combat corruption and to restore public trust in the government and its institutions responsible for the development and delivery of services to common man and to ensure retrieval of embezzled resources.As per the report, up till now more than Rs520 millions have been spent on salaries of the KPEC employees.
The commission had so far filed 30 references in the Ehtesab courts regarding corruption and corrupt practices. Only three cases were decided in the last four years.
Presently, 51 cases were under inquiry and 26 were being investigated by the commission.