Fat salaries of public sector firms board members draw PAC ire

Asim Yasin
Thursday, Aug 18, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office rejected the notion in the Public Accounts Committee about hiding the diplomatic cable of Pakistan ambassador in Washington from ex-prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as claimed by the PTI.

“There is no question of concealing the cipher. We also conducted an inquiry but no facts regarding the concealment of diplomatic cable were found,” Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood told the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday. This response came on the query of PAC member Barjees Tahir in the PAC meeting who asked the foreign secretary to explain the news on concealing the diplomatic cable of Pakistani ambassador to Washington.

The Public Accounts Committee was holding its meeting presided over by Chairman Noor Alam Khan, in which audit reports of the Ministry of Law and Justice 2019-20 and Foreign Affairs were examined.

Chairman PAC Noor Alam Khan has recommended sacking those board members in public sector companies who are drawing huge salaries, describing them as a burden on the national exchequer. The chairman PAC found it outrageous that the board members of some government companies including PCB, Petroleum Division and others are getting Rs 70 to 80 lakh as monthly salary, besides other perks, which raises their overall package to Rs1 crore. Calling for their dismissal, he called for cutting down their emoluments to Rs5 to Rs6 lakh.

The chairman PAC said that officers particularly those with dual citizenship are hired on higher salaries. These officers leave the country after minting money. “I know two MDs who fled this country after committing fraud and Interpol’s Red Warrant were issued against the MD of an institution,” he said.

The Public Accounts Committee found tax evasion worth billions of rupees was being done by auto manufacturing and tobacco sectors and ordered their special audit. Noor Alam Khan also expressed strong annoyance over the Ministry of Law and Justice for not holding regular meetings of departmental accounting committees and directed all the ministries to conduct those meetings regularly. During examination of the audit reports, the audit officials informed the PAC that a grant of Rs555 million was released to the law department which the Ministry of Law surrendered after failing to utilise it. But later the Ministry of Law raised its expenses.

The committee also ordered the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of all ministries and prepare their own rules and regulations for that purpose. Chairman PAC Noor Alam Khan said some ministries have not framed rules since 1999 till to-date and the law ministry should also inform other ministries about framing the rules. At this, the secretary law ministry sought one month’s time to frame those.

When Noor Alam Khan inquired from the audit authorities regarding an update on the special audit report sought by the Islamabad High Court, the Auditor General of Pakistan said it had been prepared and will be given to the committee soon.

The audit paras of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were also reviewed in the meeting and audit officials told the committee that an amount of five million pounds were released to a law firm by the London High Commission in the Hyderabad Fund case going on since 1948. Of that, 123,000 pounds were to be refunded by the law firm, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not ask for. The audit officials said Pakistan had lost this case and sought the refundable amount. Following explanations by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PAC settled the para.

Examining the issue of overseas Pakistanis in the Middle East, the PAC chairman said, “Pakistanis in the Middle East confront many problems that need to be solved by the foreign mission. We should take special care of the overseas Pakistanis as those in the Middle East send the most remittances.” The PAC also sought a report regarding Pakistanis being held as prisoners in the Middle East due to ‘Iqama’ related issues.