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May 27, 2013

Nine ministries have secret funds, refuse audit of Rs3.5 billion

Islamabad

May 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Nineteen government ministries are using almost Rs3.6 billion as secret funds and have refused an audit of this public money.
The Directorate General Audit of the federal government informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan in writing that it was not just the Ministry of Information which had secret funds but the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Defence, State and Frontier Regions, Kashmir Affairs, Information Technology, the Afghan Trade Development Cell, the Maritime Security Agency, Karachi, Pakistan Coast Guards, Pakistan Rangers, Sindh and Punjab, IG FC Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, IG FC Balochistan, NAB, ANF, Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission, Federal Tax Ombudsman, Pakistan Railways, Fata secretariat, National Counter Terrorism Authority, Motorway Police and some other departments were also given a total of Rs3,573,869,793 in 2012-13 as secret service expenditure.
All these departments are not willing to an audit of these funds worth billions claimed to have been used in the name of national security.
The issue of secret funds came under discussion during the hearing of a constitutional petition for the accountability of the media. The Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Information to provide details of secret expenditure and special publicity funds.
The Ministry of Information claimed privilege on certain items of this secret expenditure. During the hearing, DG Audit informed the Supreme Court that the secret service expenditure of the Information Ministry was un-audited. Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir claimed that some funds identified by the government are not subject to audit by the Auditor General under article 241 of the constitution.
Justice Jawad S Khawaja, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Ejaz Afzal issued a detailed order on May 7 2013 and made it clear that audit of accounts of all federal and provincial governments must be conducted by the Auditor General and the Constitution does not

recognise any exception to the provisions of article 170(2).
The court asked for details of all govt ministries using secret funds. DG Audit Dr.Asif ur Rehman provided the details of all ministries to the Supreme Court last week. According to the report submitted by the DG Audit, Embassy of Pakistan in Washington was issued Rs171,601,000 and Rs173,601,000 separately in 2012-13 as a secret fund. The High Commission of Pakistan in London was given Rs31,675,000.
During the hearing of the case, Justice Jawad S Khawaja told the DG Audit that budget of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is more than one billion rupees and not a single rupee of its budget is unaudited and no other government department can claim exemption from audit.
The Supreme Court ordered DG Audit to come up with the audit of list A of the secret service expenditure (special publicity fund and Institute of Regional Studies) prepared by the Information Ministry and provided to the court on April 22, 2013. The audit was primarily conducted of the expenditure on items of only one list for the period from July 1, 2011 to April 9, 2013 amounting to Rs177,988,450.
The DG Audit completed the audit in just a few days and submitted its detailed reports to the Supreme Court. The DG Audit detected many irregularities in the use of the secret services expenditure and special publicity fund.
The report of the DG is a clear charge-sheet against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The report mentioned unauthorized and unjustified payments to various press clubs and individuals. It is interesting to note that the DG Audit declared the withdrawal of cash of Rs4.683 million for payment in the name of unknown public relations activities by the Information Ministry as unauthoriszed and unjustified.
Most of the cheques issued for public relations activities were cashed by the information minister’s office. The report also noted that the Information Ministry paid amounts to some journalists for special assignments but even these payments were not justified because it could not be determined that the assignments were actually completed and the govt received value for its money.
The DG Audit said that the rules of business 1973 do not include or indicate that the functions assigned to the Ministry of Information are of a secret nature for which purpose any secret fund is required to be maintained.
The DG also said that the expenditure was not secret by its nature and the details/tasks completed were not provided. He recommended that the matter may be inquired into for fixing responsibility.
The DG Audit noted that cheque no.449415 dated October 14, 2011 amounting to Rs100,000 was shown in list A submitted to the Supreme Court in favour of a journalist Mr Intikhab Hanif but neither the copy of the cheque nor an approval was provided. Further it was not shown as paid in the bank statement record. It means that someone used the name of Intikhab Hanif to plunder public money without knowing that one day the Supreme Court will order the audit of secret services expenditure.
Senior journalist Intikhab Hanif has already denied that he ever received any money from the Information Ministry. According to the report, two web editors of the cyber wing were also receiving money from the Information Ministry. Ms Sidra Riaz and Saher Khalid were using Facebook and Twitter in the national interest but the details of their activities were not provided to the DG Audit.
During the hearing of the case, Information Ministry officials claimed that the ISPR and ISI were also on board for using the secret funds but ISPR denied that claim.
According to the DG Audit, the Ministry of Information paid Rs271,440 for the farewell dinner of former DG ISPR on June 6, 2012. The DG Audit stated in clear words that funds used in the name of the secret service expenditures and special publicity fund were utilised by the Information Ministry without any policy, rules, criteria and procedures.
Some analysts think that the secret service controversy may create problems for the new government. Officials of various government ministries will try their level best to convince the new political leadership not to lose control over the secret funds and in that case the new govt may face criticism from the media.