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November 14, 2019

NAB’s interference irks regulatory bodies


November 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB)'s interference in day-to-day affairs of regulatory authorities has irked many regulators. However, none of them has the courage to raise voice against anti-graft body’s intimidation.

Just like WhatsApp-famed JIT for Panama Papers, NAB sends the names of specific officials to the heads of regulatory body and borrow their services for the Bureau. Out of fear from NAB’s persecution, the regulatory bodies are abiding the Bureau’s illegal directives in letter and spirit and lending their officials to NAB.

Interestingly, many regulatory bodies are paying millions of rupees extra in the form of TA/DA and outstation allowances other than salaries to these officials working in NAB as a co-op member.

A well-placed source in NAB informed The News that in order to get its desired investigation report of any case, the Bureau induces these borrowed technical experts by getting them promotions (sometimes double) and other financial benefits from their parent departments. The officials who do not toe the NAB’s line are immediately sent back to their parent departments and those who follow the line are not only promoted but given financial benefits as well. Hence NAB provides golden opportunities to those officials who want to prosper and get quick and out-of-turn promotions, commented the source.

"The National Accountability Bureau chose only those technical experts who have bad reputation and know a very little about their fields.

The Bureau has been doing this illegal act as it borrows the services of officials from their parent departments without any rules and retain some of them for years. As per the government rules the services of any official are handed over to any other department on deputation basis but NAB does not follow these rules and gets their services for case to case basis.

Due to the fear of NAB’s persecution the heads of regulatory bodies are keeping mum on this illegal and unlawful act of the anti-graft body", says Khalid Mirza Chairman Policy Board of the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

The SECP is not the only regulatory body which has expressed its concerns on NAB’s blackmailing and interference in day-to-day affairs of the regulatory bodies. Recently National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has issued annual report of State of Industry Report (SOI) 2018 and raised serious concerns against NAB in it.

“The role of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also needs to be mentioned here, especially in the context of NEPRA. Almost all the projects on which Nepra had made determinations in the past have been questioned by NAB, and the way the investigations are being conducted, it has completely stifled the morale of Nepra professionals. The matter in essence has come to the jurisdiction of Nepra and the boundaries beyond which NAB may not intervene. A holistic approach is the need of the hour so that confidence of the sector in general and that of NEPRA in particular is not unduly hurt,” Nepra’s SOI 2018 report says.

As per the official record of a regulatory body, one of the regulatory authority is paying around Rs1.5 million monthly in the form of TA/DA and outstation allowances to its six employees currently working with NAB. This amount is in addition to their salaries which is being paid by the regulatory body too. These six officials are mid-career officers (upto the rank of joint director). The official record further shows that one official of a regulatory body (a joint director) who has worked for NAB has received Rs8 million in the form of TA/DA and outstation allowance other than salary from his parent department since his posting in NAB.

NAB also wrote a recommendation letter for the same official to his parent department for giving him out of the way double promotion. The regulatory body implemented the NAB’s recommendation in its letter and spirit and gave the same official double promotion. The official was working as a deputy director at the time of joining NAB but after the bureau’s recommendation he has been promoted to the rank of joint director.

SECP’s Policy Board chairman Khalid Mirza complained that the anti-graft body is regularly intervening in the regulatory bodies’ affairs and using its powers to intimidate the government departments. This is wrong and it should not happen but NAB is doing this to strong-arm the regulatory bodies. Just because of NAB’s intimidation the government officials do not raise their voice against bureau’s illegal activities.

“NAB was investigating a case of a company’s merger and asked the SECP to send an expert in the field of merger. The SECP recommended a name of an official who has been dealing the companies merger since last many years. The NAB rejected this name. The regulatory body then sent two other names for the said purpose but both these names were rejected too. NAB then sent the name of a specific person for this case. Interestingly, NAB’s recommended person’s repute was not good within the department. I don’t know why NAB choose such persons who have bad repute,” commented Khalid Mirza.

“Normally the government officials are sent to other departments on deputation but NAB follows no rules. The regulatory bodies would have no issues if these officials are sent to NAB on deputation. By doing this NAB would have to pay their salaries and other perks and privileges but the anti-graft body simply sent the name of specific person and ask the regulatory body to lend his services to NAB for specific case’s investigations. NAB is violating the prescribed laws but it seems the Bureau is above the law,” said Khalid Mirza. The News also contacted the spokespersons of the regulatory authorities, including the State Bank of Pakistan and the National Bank of Pakistan, whose employees are serving in NAB but none of them was ready to speak on the record. This scribe even sent these regulatory bodies a questionnaire via email and WhatsApp. The SBP spokesperson said the officials from the Bank are sent to NAB on deputation basis. He however, did not respond to other queries.

Similarly, the NBP spokesperson was sent a questionnaire via email to know whether NAB select the officials of its own choice or they are sent as per the bank policy. The NBP was also asked whether NAB sends any recommendation letters for giving promotion to those officials who have worked with NAB and who is paying the salaries of these officials. The NBP spokesperson sent following reply on WhatsApp, “We can respond that these are internal matters and are non-public information which cannot be divulged to anyone outside the bank.” The News also contacted NAB’s spokesperson on Monday to get Bureau’s version on this issue. The NAB spokesperson did not respond to this scribe’s calls. The spokesperson was then contacted on Tuesday and sent him message on WhatsApp. Nawazish Ali Asim then responded to this scribe to send him written questionnaire and he will respond to these queries on Wednesday. Following question were sent to him:

1. Total number of officials from regulatory bodies including the SECP, Nepra, Ogra, FBR, State Bank of Pakistan and National Bank of Pakistan working as a Co-Op member currently in NAB?

2. Total number of officials from these regulatory bodies have served as a co-op member in NAB/ JITs during last three years?

3. Under what arrangements are they serving in NAB?

4. What is the criteria of selecting these officials? Why NAB sends specific officials names and demand their services from their parent departments?

5. Are they serving in NAB on deputation basis? If yes, then how many of them are serving on deputation basis and how many officials from these regulatory bodies are serving without any arrangement?

6. Who is paying the salaries of these co-op members? NAB or their parent department?

7. Whether these co-op members are being paid any TA/DA or other perks and privileges by NAB?

8. Who is paying the salaries of SECP, NBP, FBR, NBP officials working with NAB as co-op members?

9. Under what law NAB writes letters to the regulatory bodies and ask the heads of the regulatory bodies for the promotions of these co-op members? Does NAB has any authority to write such recommendation letters?

This scribe received following response from NAB Spokesperson Asim Ali Nawazish on Wednesday:

“Sir. NAB can co-op any official member from above such regulators after getting approval from all concerned regulators as per law. The co-op members are needed on case to case basis after proper approval of all regulators as and when required. NAB is an apex anti-corruption which is working to eradicate corruption and recover looted money from corrupt elements and deposited that in the national exchequer. Out of recovered amount, NAB employees do not receive any single rupee and all recovered amount is deposited in the national exchequer as NAB employees are considering it as their national duty. This is not correct that all co-op members are working for the last two years in NAB and their departments are paying their salaries. I have therefore asked you to kindly give me the names of the officials of regulatory bodies which you have not provided as your statement was only sweeping statement just to malign NAB and tarnish its image. NAB is law abiding organisation and our all actions are always as per law. Secondly firstly you have stated that all regulators claim that their members are on deputation which I denied and correct you that If some co-op member from regulatory body is on deputation in NAB, then he will be getting salary from NAB as per law.

“Moreover the above mentioned all regulatory bodies are govt organisations and our common aim is the same to make Pakistan corruption free as eradication of corruption from Pakistan is our collective responsibility. We have never received any concern from any regulatory body in writing as they all know that NAB is performing its responsibilities in accordance with law. I want to remind you that firstly you mentioned only SECP and then you said that all the regulatory bodies which is without any solid reasons and basis. I wonder how you have known that NAB has co-opted employees of all regulators which is very surprising and shows your ill intentions and malafide against NAB. We request to kindly avoid publishing concocted and baseless stories against NAB. Regards.”