Corrupt practices, improper sanctioning, lack of budget reasons for rejection
Almost three out of every 10 bills presented to the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) during the last fiscal year were rejected due to various issues, including non-payment of kickbacks, improper authorisation and lack of budget.
The revelation, made by AGPR Chief Hafiz Muhammad Tahir during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday, put a question mark on the country’s bill-clearance system.
“Out of 347,405 bills that were submitted in the AGPR department during the last fiscal year, the department on various reasons rejected as many as 95,959 bills,” said Hafiz Tahir, while briefing the standing committee.
Upon insistence of the committee members, the AGPR chief listed corrupt practices, improper sanctioning authority and lack of budget as top reasons for the high rate of rejection.
“I admit that there is corruption in the AGPR department,” said Tahir when committee members criticised his department for unchecked corrupt practices.
AGPR officials have developed a habit of keeping a ‘cut’ ranging between 2% and 5% of the total billed amount and tend to treat it as their genuine income, said Senator Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasni.
The AGPR department is responsible for keeping the accounting record of all transactions, performing the pre-audit before making payments, preparing civil accounts to the federal and provincial governments, and reconciling the banking transactions related to the federal and provincial governments.
“Ninety per cent of the AGPR officials are corrupt,” said Senator Ilyas Bilour.
When demanded by the committee to throw all black sheep out of his department, the AGPR chief said that he had already initiated a bill tracking system and if a bill was rejected twice, it would be brought to his notice.
“In July this year, Auditor General of Pakistan Rana Assad Amin himself admitted that there was a corrupt mafia in AGPR,” said Standing Committee Chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwalla.
Tahir further informed that there were 3,497 bills of the premier institutions of the country that were cleared the same day, which was again not a good practice. The clearance ratio of same-day bills was roughly two-thirds of the presented bills.
“Clearing bills on the same day shows unusual haste; three-day clearance is a reasonable time for a bill to get cleared,” added the AGPR chief.
Admitting yet again that his department was not well-equipped to give pendency reports, he could not give the number of the pending bills.
The committee members also expressed fears that the AGPR officials struck deals by delaying the approval of bills, to which Tahir said that a bill could be delayed till the close of the fiscal year, yet its approval cannot be stalled beyond the fiscal year.
“In a country where bills of official civil works are prepared by adding 16% kickbacks that are to be disbursed among officials of the executing departments, how can corruption be tackled?” questioned Senator Kamil Ali Agha of PML-Q.
The committee showed its dissatisfaction over the billing clearance and scrutiny system, recommending the government to initiate an online system aimed at minimising human interventions.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2015.
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