In an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-conditioned review of Pakistan’s anti-corruption framework, the government has agreed to introduce more amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance and the Federal Investigation Act, revealed an interim official report.
The report was submitted to the IMF as part of the global lender’s condition to conduct a comprehensive review of the institutional framework of Pakistan’s anti-graft environment by a taskforce.
The taskforce has recommended amendments to the NAO, 1999 and the FIA Act, 1974, according to the interim report.
The IMF slapped the condition last year after the government made changes in the NAO that equally benefitted the politicians as well as the bureaucrats.
However, it took the government six months to form the taskforce. It then hurriedly called two meetings of the force last month to finalise an interim report to be presented to the IMF.
It notified the taskforce as late as December 27 for the review of the institutional framework of anti-corruption institutions. Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar was appointed as convener of the taskforce. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha, former Punjab chief secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa, and ex-finance secretary Younus Dagha were among its other members.
According to one of the proposals, the taskforce recommended that the anti-corruption agencies should have well-defined jurisdictions.
“Another important aspect which requires consideration is unequivocally defining the jurisdiction of NAB [the National Accountability Bureau] and the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] in their respective laws as it is often seen that both the agencies take cognisance of the same offense [raising] serious questions over [the] effectiveness to try corruption cases,” read the interim report.
“The committee agreed that in a system like ours, further severity of punishment may not bring desirable results but certainty of punishment may prove [to be] an effective [form of] deterrence,” it added.
The report showed that the preventative approach should be adopted at an institutional level to curb corruption, and prescribed punishments might be ensured for the suspects, if they were proven guilty.
In another recommendation, the taskforce sought an inspection of accounts of public sector departments.
It also suggested building the capacity of officials of anti-graft agencies.
The report read that the FIA was the world’s only investigation agency that provided immigration services at airports.
It added that almost 50% of its resources were spent on immigration services and rest on other crimes including corruption.
“As a consequence, when officers are posted as investigation officers from immigration desks, they lack the basic knowledge and skill for investigating and prosecuting corrupt practices,” the report stated.
The taskforce recommended the appointment of chief finance and accounts officers and chief internal auditors to prevent corruption at the institutional level.
It suggested that asset declarations of civil servants should be made public.
The taskforce is cognisant of the fact that the establishment of an efficient anti-corruption regime for a country the size of Pakistan is not going to be a short-term process and will require a continuous effort in reviewing the structures and processes involved.
The taskforce affirmed that the requirements proposed by the IMF would be analysed and complied with in connection with the anti-corruption mechanism within the constitutional and legal domains keeping in view other aspects.
The report gave a glimpse of the background that led to the amendments to the NAB law.
“NAB had been widely criticised for exceeding its mandate by initiating politically motivated cases and violation of individuals’ rights by its unfettered and excessive powers and diverting it from its raison d’être,” the IMF was told.
As a result, the report showed that almost six months ago, the country’s parliament unanimously passed amendments to the NAO, 1999 to curb the excesses as well as bringing the authority of NAB officials within the fetters of the law so that fundamental rights were not violated and everyone was treated in accordance with the law.
A statutory ceiling was stipulated where any case above the value of Rs500 million would be cognisable by NAB.
Anything below this value shall either fall under the jurisdiction of the FIA or the respective provincial anti-corruption agency.
The government told the IMF that in this background, it was advised that the primary role of the agency must be to probe into corruption besides allocating its resources on training and capacity building of its investigating officers.