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KP civil servants ask PM to reform accountability framework

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
February 19, 2019

PESHAWAR: The provincial bureaucracy has recommended changes in the national accountability framework to reform the process of accountability and avoid embarrassment for the government and the accused in alleged corruption cases.

In a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Provincial Civil Service (PCS), Provincial Management Service (PMS) and Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) associations on Monday pointed out that the accountability framework of public sector was crucially important for good governance and the accountability institutions at the federal and provincial levels were working diligently to fulfill their mandate.

However, the letter noted that process of these institutions has been marred with numerous anomalies which have led to uncertainty and apprehensions among different strata of the society, particularly the civil servants. The letter to the prime minister was written in the backdrop of the arrest of Dr Abdul Samad, provincial Director, Archeology and Museums, by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It caused concern to both the federal and provincial governments. It even forced the prime minister to tweet against the handcuffing of the highly qualified archaeologist and ask the NAB chairman to take action against those responsible for the act. The letter carrying signature of the PMS Officers Association coordinator, Fahd Ikram Qazi, the PMS, PAS and officers of other cadres submitted eight point set of recommendations for reforming the accountability framework across the country.

It said procedural lapses in routine official work were part of the job, and covered accordingly under the Efficiency and Discipline (E&D) Rules. “If certain steps during the recruitment, procurement, grant of no-objection certificate (NOCs) or any other official work was left out or violated inadvertently without any evidence of embezzlement or nepotism, it shouldn’t fall under the ambit of the NAB or Anti-Corruption Establishment,” it added. The E&D Rules are self-contained with comprehensive mechanism to cater for such lapses, the letter said. It said that in case an officer was cooperating with the accountability institutions by presenting his person and any required documents to facilitate the process of inquiry, there should not be need to arrest him. “Such premature arrests lead to defamation of an officer having an unblemished career otherwise. Arrests may be made in case of conviction only, not of the under-trial officers if he or she is cooperating,” the letter argued.

The officers in the letter recommended that initiation of an inquiry against any officer or the proceedings of a case may not be shared with the media. It noted that even an unsubstantiated allegation presented in the media is akin to conviction in the public eye and it also influences the proceedings. The letter called upon the prime minister to bind the accountability institutions to tender public apology in case the officer concerned is exonerated so as to retrieve his or her self-respect damaged through media trial.

Pointedly naming the NAB, the letter said the accountability institutions must be manned by capable officers who technically ought to have more expertise than those they investigate. “The regime of restoring the damages to those who have been afflicted with civil wrongs need to be strengthened to ensure transparency as established by the legal norm of ubi jus ibiremedium,” the letter said.

Those being unnecessarily grilled for years and made to suffer along the way to be eventually proved innocents have the right to ask for justice in every respect, it added. The officers also questioned the validity of the issue of burden of proof on the accused to prove his or her innocence with respect to an impugned act and termed it controversial and against the norms of natural justice that needed to be corrected accordingly. The officers pointed out that the civil servants were subjected to multiple accountability institutions of various shades from both the provincial and federal governments. They argued that accountability rules may be made in consonance with the Constitution and federal entities should be dealt by the federal institutions and provincial affairs be strictly dealt by the provincial accountability institutions.