ISLAMABAD: Convener of the Sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed while taking up the audit objection of 33 vehicles worth Rs 1.46 billion ordered for the SAARC conference during the tenure of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, termed it a flawed decision, and asked the Foreign Office that when the SAARC Summit was cancelled before October 2016, why the vehicles were ordered in September 2016.
It was also revealed in the Sub-Committee of the PAC that irregular payments Rs830 million were made to the Foreign Office officers posted at foreign missions in the head of TA/DA. The sub-committee of the Public Accounts postponed the audit till recoveries. The meeting of the Sub-Committee of the PAC was presided over by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed in which the audit para related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the financial years 2017-18 and 2018-19 were examined.
The issue of the import of 33 vehicles worth Rs 1.46 billion came under discussion and the Audit officials told the sub-committee that Pakistan’s Mission in Berlin had purchased these vehicles despite the Finance Ministry ban. The secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Sub-committee that those cars were bought for the SAARC summit. At this Mushahid Hussain Syed said that the SAARC Summit was cancelled before October 2016 then why were the vehicles ordered? The foreign secretary said that their purchase was authorized by prime minister and the ECC in 2016. As many as 21 of those 33 vehicles are still with the Prime Minister’s Office. The sub-committee of the PAC was informed that the case was sent to the National Accountability Bureau during the tenure of former prime minister Imran Khan. The NAB officials told the committee that no element of corruption was found in the case. Committee member Ramesh Kumar Vankwani said the recovery of 33 imported vehicles for the SAARC summit should be made from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. However, Mushahid Hussain overruled the assertion saying that it was not the decision of an individual but that of the Economic Coordination Committee.
The sub-committee of the PAC also expressed concern over the payment of Rs 27 lakh to the officers of the Pakistani mission in the US in the form of a furniture allowance. The audit officials told the sub-committee of the PAC that $24, 675 was paid against the rules to 11 officers of the mission for the purpose. The PAC disposed of the audit objection. While examining another audit para, the audit officials told the sub-committee that an amount of Rs 830 million was paid to officers of foreign missions against the law under TA/DA. The auditors said that so far recoveries have not yet been made in Istanbul, Canberra and Sofia while the recoveries have been made from Pakistani missions in other countries. At this, the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that some of those officers are retiring soon and the amount will be recovered from their pensions. The Sub-Committee of the PAC directed to dispose of the audit objection if the recoveries are completed.
The issue of cash payments of Rs 570 million to Pakistani missions by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also taken into consideration. The audit officials said that according to the law, any amount over Rs 5000 cannot be paid in cash and must be paid only in the form of a cross cheque. In their response, the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Rs 5000 is a very small amount in other currencies and that they routinely face difficulties due to a lack of cash. They also asked to enhance the limit to $500 dollars. The Sub-Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance to pay up to $500 dollars in cash to foreign missions.
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