Saturday September 18, 2021

Political storm brewing: PAC raises questions over fate of global Covid-19 aid

July 27, 2021
Political storm brewing: PAC raises questions over fate of global Covid-19 aid

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee was surprised on putting every expenditure made by the federal ministries in the name of Corona Relief Package as it was found that subsidies on Utility Stores and even the funding for the Panaghas were made from the Corona relief package of over Rs1,240 billion.

The Public Accounts Committee also asked to submit the details of international aid received for Covid-19 from the Economic Affairs Division and also sought in-camera briefing on the purchase of corona vaccine from the Ministry of National Health Services and National Disaster Management Authority.

The meeting of the PAC was held under Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain in which a briefing was given on Covid-19 expenditures. The PAC also sought detailed reports of audit objections on the corona funding, which were sought by the PAC and its sub-committees.

The officials of the Finance Ministry told the PAC that out of Rs1,240 billion of Corona Relief Fund, over Rs300 billion were spent in the first year of corona, which was included in supplementary grants.

The committee was told that Rs190 billion was spent on cash emergency, Rs25 billion was given to NDMA and Rs50 billion was given to the Ministry of Health and other agencies. Secretary Finance Yousaf Khan told the committee that out of Rs1,240 billion Corona Relief Package, emergency response of Rs190 billion, relief to citizens of Rs570 billion and support to Business and Economy of Rs480 billion were the major components.

He told the committee out of Rs1,240 billion, Rs875 billion as cash assistance and Rs365 billion non-cash assistance (tax exemptions and guarantees) were made.

The finance secretary told the committee that Rs25 billion were given to the NDMA, out of which Rs18 billion were released in 2019-20, Rs50 billion were given for Medical Corps, National Health and NDMA, Rs100 billion for vaccines, Rs15 billion tax relief on food and health items, which are being executed through FBR SROs.

To a query, the secretary finance told the committee that the ECC of the cabinet took the decision on the distribution of funds from the corona relief funds. It was told that no international financial assistance was included in the corona fund of Rs1,240 billion.

Chairman PAC Rana Tanveer Hussain, Chairman PAC, inquired as to where the Rs1,240 billion came from and where these funds were spent because the government could not even buy the corona vaccine in time.

He questioned that though the refunds was a right of businessmen yet what subsidy was provided to the industry. He said the tax refunds have to be made through the budget instead of the corona relief fund. He further asked whether the expenditure was made from corona through any financial discipline.

Rana Tanveer Hussain remarked it was surprising that the funds from Corona Relief Funds were given to those ministries which did not have a link with corona. He said funds were given to the Utility Stores and payment of tax refunds were made from the corona fund. “The people were given their own money from the corona funds,” he remarked.

PAC member Noor Alam remarked that every expenditure in the name of corona was put in relief, subsidy of Utility Stores and funding of shelters.

Senator Sherry Rehman said that health workers from all over the country were saying that they did not receive anything. The Auditor General of Pakistan said that the complete performance audit report of the corona package had been submitted to the president of Pakistan and once it comes from the president, then it will be sent to the National Assembly.

The health secretary informed the PAC meeting that so far they had received 40 million vaccines and out of these, 29 million vaccines had been procured while other vaccines had been provided to Pakistan by friendly countries and WHO. He told the committee that the details of agreements for the vaccine with the companies could only be shared in-camera.