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Sunday April 21, 2024

NAB issues new SOPs to correct its past wrongs

According to the SOPs, guidelines for processing complaints against elected representatives are being issued separately

By Ansar Abbasi
February 24, 2024
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) building in Islamabad, Pakistan. — Online/File
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) building in Islamabad, Pakistan. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: The NAB has issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to all its offices for fair handling of only genuine complaints, admitting that precious time and resources get wasted in processing non-cognizable complaints that adversely impairs efforts and impacts of Bureau’s operations.

“Indiscretion in handling of complaints requires course correction to dispel growing perception of fear and intimidation in different segments of state and society both,” the new SOPs resolved and streamlined complaints acceptance and processing framework with a view to discouraging mala fide and frivolous complaints; make such complaints as cognizable offence; laydown cardinal considerations for handling complaints against parliamentarian, government officials and businessmen; inject greater transparency in NAB operations and; ensure respect of human rights.

According to the SOPs, guidelines for processing complaints against elected representatives are being issued separately. However, in the case of complaints against government servants, the following instructions have been issued for strict following: i) No anonymous complaint against government officials will be entertained; ii) Identity of government officials will be kept strictly confidential during complain verification process; iii) Complaints against officials up to BS-19 shall be authorised by Regional DGs, whereas, for BS-20 and above officers, approval of NAB chairman will be required; iv) Government officials will not be called in person in NAB premises during complaint verification and inquiry stage; v) Regional DGs in consultation with the respective provincial Chief Secretaries will establish Accountability Facilitation Cells (AFCs) in respective civil secretariat for the requisite assistance; vi) All correspondence and sharing of information will be made through AFCs.

For consideration of processing complaints against businessmen, the SOPs say: i) No anonymous complaint against businessmen will be entertained; ii) Identity of businessmen will be kept strictly confidential; iii) No businessman will be summoned to NAB premises during complaint verification stage; iv) For dignified conduct of probe, a separate Business Facilitation Cell (BFC) will be establishment at regional NAB offices. The BFC will comprise of representative from respective chamber of commerce and industry, representative from “Realtors’ Association” and representative from other business associations (if required on case to case basis).

According to the new SOPs, all complaints will be dealt as per following order of priority with immediate effect: i) Complaint received from federal and provincial governments and ministries concerned; ii) Complaints referred by honorable courts; iii) Complaint referred by National Assembly, Senate and Public Accounts Committee; iv) Complaints referred by government departments, regulatory bodies, auditor general of Pakistan, banks etc; v) Complaints referred by intelligence agencies; vi) Complaints referred by chamber of commerce, business houses and corporate bodies; vii) Complaints authorised by NAB chairman; viii) Complaints referred by regional DGs of NAB; ix) Complaints pertaining to NAB officials; x) Complaint regarding cheating public at large; xi) Complaints filed by an individual.

All pending complaints which do not meet the criteria shall be disposed of by respective regional Bureau offices. In case of ongoing anonymous/pseudonymous complaints, where some evidence is also available, the regional Bureaus will have the option to trace the complaints first and on confirmation, will seek NAB HQ approval for continuation of complaint verification process.

While issuing the new TORs, the NAB admits, “An objective assessment of NAB performance since its inception reveals that conviction rate can be exponentially improved through more focused handling of legally-cognizable complaints. Primarily, the issue stems from lack of well-defined criteria and regulatory framework to distinguish between bona fide and mala fide/frivolous complaints. As a result, precious time and resources get wasted in processing non-cognizable complaints that adversely impair efforts and impacts of NAB operations. Indiscretion in handling of complaints requires course correction to dispel growing perception of fear and intimidation in different segments of state and society both.”