Thursday September 23, 2021

Govt aims to boost top auditor’s powers for transparency

January 13, 2021


ISLAMABAD: In several decisions of significance on Tuesday, the federal cabinet approved planned amendments in relevant laws to enhance powers of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to ensure transparency, and formed an inter-ministerial committee aimed at “revealing” the individuals mentioned in the Broadsheet scandal.

Briefing the media about the decisions of the federal cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said after the amendment, the purview of the AGP will also be extended to autonomous bodies—which so far get their accounts audited from private firms. He said some of the audit paragraphs are about procedural issues, which when reported, create “unnecessary sensation”.

To increase transparency, human involvement will be reduced he said, adding the functions of the AGPR will be digitalised and automated, and the issuance of cheques will be done through automation. The PTI government is “vigorously working on institutional reforms as it had promised in its manifesto” and the cabinet has decided to share details about the reforms with the public soon, he said. The minister said most of the institutions are following “old and obsolete methods, which compromise efficiency, transparency and accountability”.

With regard to Broadsheet, which Faraz said had dominated the media the past few days, the cabinet has formed an inter-ministerial committee, which will reveal the details of the individuals, mentioned in the Broadsheet scandal.

He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others “influenced that inquiry to save their own skin”, and now the government under Prime Minister Imran Khan “has decided to make those names public, after thorough scrutiny of the available material”.

Faraz said the PM’s Adviser on Institutional Reforms, Dr Ishrat Hussain, informed the meeting that over 100 institutions of the federal government were either merged or abolished to reduce the burden on the exchequer.

He said the cabinet was told that about 71,000 posts from grades 1 to 16 which remain vacant for over one year will be abolished. He said after the passage of 18th Amendment, many ministries were devolved, but the number of federal government employees had increased.

The minister also said the cabinet was briefed about the steps being taken to control smuggling of petroleum products in the country. The cabinet was told that illegal smuggling of oil causes Rs180 billion in losses to the exchequer and causes environmental pollution besides damaging engines of the vehicles.

He said the cabinet was told that a crackdown had begun and so far 192 pumps have been sealed.

The minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his strong displeasure and annoyance over the police’s alleged gunning down of Osama Satti in Islamabad, after Minister for Planning Asad Umar raised the incident in the meeting.

Faraz said a joint investigation committee, formed to investigate Satti’s killing, had presented its report to the interior secretary, but the Prime Minister expressed the resolve that a new investigation would be arranged if family members of the deceased youth were not satisfied with JIT’s findings.

He said an inquiry will be organised “to the satisfaction of Osama Satti’s family” to take the culprits to the task.

The minister said the cabinet had also discussed legal steps so that in the future, no province could create shortages of edible commodities by not releasing its share as the Sindh government did, which he said resulted in the wheat crisis.