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Amending NAO 1999: Federal govt proposes new NAB laws

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July 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has proposed new amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 law, a move under which the sitting chairman of the anti-graft watchdog could get extension. 

The newly-proposed draft of NAO 1999 prepared by the federal government read that "amendment of section 6, ordinance XVIII 1999--in the Ordinance, in clause (i) of sub-section (b) of section 6, the word “non-extendable” shall be omitted." 

The newly drafted law would be tabled before the parliamentary committee on Monday (July 27) where 24-member representing all parliamentary parties would discuss the new amendments, an official familiar with the development told The News.

Section VI of NAO 1999 deals with NAB chairman's appointment, which read, "there shall be a Chairman NAB to be appointed by the President in consultation with the 3 [Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly] for a 4 [non-extendable] period of 5 [four] years on such terms and conditions..."

According to newly proposed draft, a copy of which is available with The News, the tenure of Deputy Chairman NAB and Prosecutor General NAB would also be extendable. "Amendment of section 7, ordinance XVIII 1999.---in the Ordinance, in sub-section (b) of section 7, the word “non-extendable” shall be omitted. Amendment to section 8, ordinance XVIII 1999---in the Ordinance, in clause (iii) of sub-section (a) of section 8, the word “non-extendable” shall be omitted," read the newly proposed draft.

The new amendments of this new Bill to be called the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2020 also proposed change in existing Ordinance, which extends to the whole of Pakistan and shall apply to all persons, including those persons who are or have been in the service of Pakistan, except in respect of persons and transactions specified in sub-section.

The provisions of this Ordinance shall not apply to persons and transactions, namely, "matters pertaining to federal or provincial taxation, levies or imposts. Upon the commencement of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2020, all pending inquiries and investigations shall stand transferred to the respective authorities or departments, which administer the relevant laws of taxation, levies or imposts in question; and trials shall stand transferred from the relevant Accountability Courts to the criminal courts, which deal with offences under the respective laws pertaining to taxation, levies or imposts in question," read the new NAB laws draft.

The newly drafted laws further read that "any person or entity, or transaction in relation thereto, who or which are not directly or indirectly connected with a holder of public office, except offences falling under clauses (ix), (x) and (xi) of sub-section (a) of section 9, (c) with regard to procedural lapses in any government project or scheme, no action under this Ordinance shall be taken against any holder of public office, unless it is shown that the holder of public office, his dependents or benamidars have benefitted by gaining any material benefit, and there is evidence to corroborate the acquiring of such benefit."

"[And] with regard to any matter pertaining to the rendition of any advice, opinion or report, no action under this Ordinance shall be taken against any holder of public office, unless it is shown that the holder of public office, his dependents or benamidars have gained any material benefit, and there is evidence to corroborate such benefit," read the new draft.

The new draft to be taken up by the committee under chairmanship of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi further read that "notwithstanding anything contained in this Ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, the valuation of immovable properties, for the purposes of assessing as to whether a holder of public office has assets disproportionate lo his known sources of income, shall be reckoned either according to the applicable rate prescribed by the District Collector or the Federal Board of Revenue, whichever is higher. No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible."

The newly proposed laws further read that "amendment of section 9, Ordinance XVIII 1999--in the Ordinance, in section 9, in sub-section (a):- (a) in clause (vi), after semicolon at the end, the following shall be inserted, namely:---'Explanation:-for the purposes of this clause nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority by a holder of public office unless there is corroborative evidence of any material benefit drawn by a public office holder, his dependents or benamidars relating to that transaction."

Further it suggested changes in clause (xi), the word 'and' at the end shall be omitted: "(c) in clause (xii), for the full stop at the end, a colon followed by the word “and” shall be substituted and thereafter a new clause (xiii) shall be added, namely:-(xiii) an act done in good faith and in discharge of duties and performance of official functions shall not, unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any material benefit from that act, constitute an offence under this clause.”

The amendment further read that "amendment of section 16, Ordinance XVIII of 1999--in the Ordinance, in section 16,in sub-section (d),for the full stop at the end a colon shall be substituted and thereafter the, the following new sub-section (e) shall be added, namely:-“(e) The Court shall provide to the accused copies of the Reference along with all the documents attached to the Reference. The accused shall within fourteen days of the receipt of the documents identify to the Court the documents which the accused admits, which shall not require any proof.”