Auditing pension system – Ishaq Dar Minister of Finance ordered probe of 600000 ghost pensioners
Islamabad (Sunday, August 30, 2015) – As the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) backtracks on its original disclosures about the existence of 600,000 ‘ghost’ pensioners, the government on Saturday constituted a committee to review its pension system and identify malpractices.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar expressed concern over the reports about ghost pensioners and ordered the formation of a special committee, according to a statement issued by the finance ministry. Dar also ordered the NBP to withdraw a petition it has filed in court to stop the Auditor General of Pakistan from conducting an audit.
The developments came on the heels of NBP’s claim that it had identified 600,000 ghost pensioners. However, when it faced pressure, NBP President Iqbal Ashraf took an about-turn, and blamed the media for misreporting on the matter.
Headed by Senator Saleem Mandviwalla of the PPP, the Senate Finance Committee has already called a hearing on Thursday, September 13, to probe the existence of the 600,000 ghost pensioners. The NBP had made the disclosure in a Senate Finance Committee meeting.
The finance ministry said the special committee would review the system of pensions, point out malpractices and suggest measures for revamping them. The committee will comprise representatives from the Controller General of Accounts and the Auditor General of Pakistan’s office.
Dar said the committee should also come up with proposals for simplification of pension procedures and facilitation of the pensioners. He gave a 15-day deadline to the committee to come up with its recommendations. “I wish to see an end to pensioners queuing up in long lines to receive pensions. They should receive pensions just like someone receives a regular salary,” said Dar.
Dar also directed the NBP to withdraw its court petition and prepare for an audit by the Auditor General of Pakistan. In a meeting of Public Accounts Committee, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) Rana Assad Amin had claimed that had the NBP allowed a statutory audit, the issue of ghost pensioners would not have surfaced.
Dar said audit was necessary for fulfilling the objectives of transparency and complete accountability as the NBP was a fully state-owned entity. The minister specially referred to 18th constitutional amendment, which had enhanced Auditor General’s powers for conducting audit and maintaining financial discipline. Strictly speaking, however, the government does not own all of National Bank. It is listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange, and approximately 20% of its shares are owned by other investors, including 10.3% by foreign investors.
AGP Amin said that capacity building of audit and accounts personnel and elimination of corrupt practices was among the top priorities currently. He said every year, through audit, the AGP effects recovery of an average of Rs48 billion. Amin said the AGP has conducted audits of World Bank, DFID, ADB, JICA and other donor-funded projects. The number of foreign funded projects audited in fiscal 2015 was 133, he said.