References filed against violations of codal formalities in AJK Council
By Tariq Naqash
MUZAFFARABAD, June 27: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Council, an institution being run from the AJK taxpayers’ money, has long been violating codal formalities and applications of pre-audit checks in deals worth millions of rupees, forming the basis of two references to the AJK Ehtesab Bureau, it has been learnt.
In just one of many such cases, a fictitious expenditure of Rs 119.5 million had been shown purportedly for automation work of the Income Tax Department in Mirpur as the then Accounts Officer of the AJK Council had not applied pre-audit checks before release of this huge amount, documentary evidence available with this scribe revealed.
However, Malik Qaiser Majeed, Joint Secretary since 2007 of the AJK Council, was of the view that the “present Ehtesab Bureau is not competent to exercise its jurisdiction over the affairs of his institution.”
“We are a parallel government and do not fall under the purview of the present Ehtesab Bureau. We are going to set up our own body for accountability,” he told this scribe.
The AJK Council, it may be mentioned here, was established under the AJK’s interim Constitution Act 1974 apparently “to serve as a bridge between the governments in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad.” However, officials and public in AJK believe that it has turned itself into a parallel government and has largely evaded scrutiny of its spending by investigating and accounting bodies of Pakistan or AJK.
The main source of Council’s income is 20 per cent of the taxes generated from the AJK territory which it claims it spends on the administrative expenditure of its secretariat in Islamabad, development activities (in Pakistan and AJK) and other miscellaneous heads.
The AJK income tax department, AG office and the Directorate General of Audit fall under the administrative control of Council and it has a key role in the appointments in AJK’s superior judiciary. The AG office is responsible for maintaining pre-audit checks and post audit of vouched accounts of both the AJK government and the Council.
Sources told this scribe that the violation of codal formalities and applications of pre-audit checks was going on in the Council for several years. On June 5, AJK’s Accountant General (AG) Tahir Mahmud, asked the Council’s Accounts Officer (AO), Haq Nawaz Abbasi, to submit monthly accounts with complete vouchers and other supporting documents.
However, Mr Abbasi, posted in the Council secretariat some five years ago, did not comply with the direction, despite several verbal and one written reminders, because according to an audit report (2011-12) of the AJK Council, “he was not only avoiding observance of codal formalities but also cheating the AG office and in doing so causing huge financial losses to the national exchequer,” sources said.
AG Mahmud finally recalled Mr Abbasi from the Council secretariat and replaced him by a senior most deputy accountant general besides filing two references against him in the AJK Ehtesab Bureau, sources added.
However, in a surprise move Mr Mahmud was himself unceremoniously transferred by the Auditor General of Pakistan’s office on June 20 through a ‘flawed order,’ which however remains in limbo owing to serious reservations and resentment in the higher echelons of power here as well as intervention of the federal secretary Kashmir and GB affairs division.
Interestingly, the first order made by Mr Noora Khan, who was posted in place of Mr Mahmud, was reversal of Mr Abbasi’s transfer. However, like his own posting that order remained unimplemented as well.
According to sources, official quarters in AJK were already concerned about the state of affairs in the Council and some three months ago AJK Ehtesab Bureau had also sought details of some deals from the Council secretariat.
Sources said the Council had made investments in various commercial banks and financial institutions without seeking approval of or providing information to the AG office.
Not only this, it had been executing some projects at exorbitantly high costs and making excess/irregular/unauthorised payments worth millions without technical sanction of estimates and schedule of rates, they said.
Acting on complaints, former secretary Kashmir and GB affairs division, Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, had constituted a 3-member committee, comprising AJK Council’s chief planning Munawwar Shah, AG Mahmud and AJK secretary works Akram Sohail to look into some of these issues.
In their findings, Mr Sohail and Mr Mahmud had also objected to excessive construction costs without technical sanction as well as non-observance of codal and legal formalities.
When Mr Majeed was asked as to how such brazen violations of codal formalities were allowed to take place for years together, he replied that he was wrong person to be asked this question and it should have been put to Mr Abbasi, instead.
“In fact it’s an internal matter of the AG office and their Accounts Officer in AJK Council and they are responsible for it. We have nothing to do with it and prior to that I had no knowledge about it,” claimed Mr Majeed who is the Council since 2004.
He also dismissed allegations regarding financial irregularities and exorbitant construction costs, but admitted that until last year there was no schedule of rates in the Council.
It may be recalled that early in March, Mr Majeed had declined to provide some information to AJK Ehtesab Bureau, maintaining that the incumbent chairman was not competent to exercise his jurisdiction over the affairs of the Council “because he had been appointed by the AJK President without consultation of AJK Council chairman (Prime Minister of Pakistan).”