ISLAMABAD: From refreshments and the lunch of parliamentarians to the honorarium for BS-21 officers and above during the budget session of parliament and its preparations, all the spending by the Finance Ministry from the taxpayers money in 2013-14 was irregular and unauthorised.
In his annual report for the audit year 2013-14, the Auditor General of Pakistan revealed that not only was the Rs6.1 million spent on entertainment of MPs during the budget session in June 2014 unauthorised but Rs15 million paid to 28 top (BS-21 and above) bureaucrats was also irregular.
Interestingly, among the recipients of the “unauthorized” honorarium besides several top bureaucrats of the finance and other divisions, the name of the then adviser to the Finance Ministry and today’s auditor general of Pakistan is also reflected in the report.
The report said that the Finance Division incurred an expenditure of Rs6.182 million on refreshments and lunch for parliamentarians under the head of account “entertainment and gifts” during 2013-14.
The AGP report said that the expenditure on parliamentarians’ entertainment was incurred beyond the powers delegated to the ministries and divisions. Adding insult to injury, competitive rates were not obtained to get a better deal for the refreshments of MPs.
The finance ministry tried to justify this by arguing that it has been a practice for the last several years that during the budget session in the National Assembly, high-tea, lunches and dinners are served to MNAs.
The Finance Ministry added that since lengthy discussions were held during the budget session and the parliamentarians were required to attend the NA proceedings for prolonged hours, it was considered that parliamentarians and other related people be served with hygienic food to save their time. For this purpose, the practice for arranging lunch, etc, by the Finance Division had been adopted.
The Finance Ministry added that the meals were provided to MPs during 2013-14 after the prime minister’s approval and after calling limited tenders from security cleared vendors.
The AGP report, while rejecting the Finance Ministry’s excuses, said that the budget making and subsequent discussions in parliament are an annual activity and ample time was available for obtaining competitive rates. It added that the Finance Ministry did not quote any rules wherein the prime minister was authorised to relax the requirement for calling upon tenders.
“The expenditure pertained to the National Assembly and not the Finance Division,” the government is reminded by the report.
Regarding the honorarium, the report said that the Finance Ministry paid a total of Rs268 million as budget honorarium, including income tax, during 2012-14 i.e. Rs146 million during 2012-13 and Rs122 million during 2013-14.
The AGP report said that out of the total payment of honorarium, the bonus given to the officers of BPS-21 and BS-22 (and those enjoying MP scales) was a violation of the policy decision. The report revealed that in violation of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, income tax was not deducted from the honorarium paid to these officers.
The Finance Ministry in its reply said that the proposal submitted for grant of honoraria for the year 2013-14 also included income tax and the chairman ECC, being the competent authority, had approved the proposal. The chairman ECC had approved the honoraria of BS-21 officers and above as they were fully involved and occupied in the budget preparation process till the approval of the budget from the National Assembly.
The Finance Ministry’s reply was not accepted by the AGP, who said that the honorarium was paid in violation of the decision of the ECC. It added that the sanction of the minister for finance could not be construed as approval of the chairman ECC because the minister for finance was the chairman ECC only while presiding over the meetings of the ECC.
Interestingly, the recipients of the unauthorised and irregular honorarium included Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masud, Cabinet Secretary Raja Hasan Abbas, Secretary Water and Power Younis Dagah and even the then adviser to the finance minister and presently the Auditor General of Pakistan Rana Asad Amin. Others included the then additional secretary (AS) finance Azra Mujtaba, AS Finance Shahid Mahmood, AS Finance Shabbir Ahmad, Economic Adviser Finance Syed Ijaz Ali Shah Wasti, Senior Joint Secretary (SJS) Finance Abdul Akbar Sarifzada, SJS/Financial Adviser Cabinet Arshed Ahmed, SJS/Financial Adviser Planning Dr Nadeem Shafiq Malik, SJS Noor Ahmed, Controller General of Accounts Farah Ayub Tarin, AS Establishment Ajmad Mahmood, AGPR Tahir Mahmood, Additional Secretary Establishment Raja Hassan Abbas, CCAO Mahmood Akhtar, Additional Finance Secretary HRM Zafar Hassan Reza, AS Khizar Hayat Gondal, AS Muhammad Younis Dagha, AS Shafqatur Rehman, AS Abdur Rauf Khan, Special Secretary Finance Abdul Khalid, AS Syed Ijaz Hussain, AS Aftab Anwar Baloch, SJS Hamid Raza, ex-finance secretary Abdul Wajid Rana and SJS Muhammad Sarwar.
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