Senate Standing Committee seeks audit of anti-graft watchdog’s accounts to clarify gap between NAB’s deposits and stated recoveries of Rs. 821 billion
The Ministry of Finance on Wednesday informed the Senate Standing Committee on Finance that it had no knowledge of the Rs. 821 billion the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) claims to have recovered over the past 16 years, adding that it had only received Rs. 6.46 billion in the national kitty.
The massive gap—Rs. 814.5 billion remain unaccounted for—prompted the Senate panel to direct the auditor general of Pakistan to conduct a special audit of NAB’s accounts to ascertain the reality of NAB’s claims.
During the proceedings, Additional Finance Secretary Tanveer Butt informed the Standing Committee that NAB had submitted just Rs. 6.458 billion in non-tax revenue to the Finance Division over the 16 years it had been in operation. He clarified that the Finance Ministry had no knowledge of where the remaining amount had been utilized, adding that the ministry lacked the authority to question the anti-graft watchdog on the discrepancy.
“The money was not being deposited in government accounts. It is not known in which account the NAB had deposited the recovery of Rs. 821 billion,” he said. Of the Rs. 6.5 billion the government is aware of, said Butt, recoveries during the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government’s rule amounted to Rs. 1.4 billion or 21.5 percent of the total recoveries.
The highest amount recovered since 1999 was during the PMLN government from 2013 to 2018, he said, noting that NAB had deposited Rs. 3.93 billion or nearly 61 percent of its total recoveries during that period. Records also showed that Rs. 368 million was recovered during General Pervez Musharraf’s regime, and that the PPP tenure of 2008-2013 had netted Rs. 771 million or 12 percent of total recoveries.
Last month, NAB had claimed that it had recovered Rs. 535 billion directly and indirectly from “corrupt elements” during the past three years. Per the Finance Ministry’s declaration, only Rs. 1.4 billion of this has actually been deposited with the government.
In a bid to ascertain the reality of NAB’s claims, the Senate Standing Committee decided to ask the auditor general of Pakistan and the NAB (Accounts) director general to appear before it and offer clarity. The committee’s chairman, Senator Talha Mahmood of the JUI, said the amount recovered by NAB would also be audited.
The Senate committee also deliberated on the recent devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the U.S. dollar and its subsequent impact on inflation. Describing the government’s policies as “disastrous,” the panel’s members regretted that despite a depreciation of Rs. 57 per dollar over the past three years, the PTI-led government had only been able to boost exports by 3 percent.
Chairman Mahmood said the masses did not care whether the exchange rate was moderated artificially or through market demands in the midst of rampant inflation. Some of the members also referred to a recent viral clip of State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir, in which he said devaluation benefited overseas Pakistanis, as “uncalled for.”
Senator Kamil Ali Agha stressed that the SBP governor was not a political office and should not make political statements. He said the government and the SBP were responsible for stabilizing the value of the rupee.