Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) in collaboration with Accountability Lab Pakistan (ALP) organized a knowledge sharing session for a delegation of eight (8) Honourable Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Provincial Assembly of Balochistan on “The significance and the need for reforms in the Public Accounts Committees” on 18th August, 2022 at PIPS Campus Islamabad.
The Programme commenced with the recitation of the Holy Quran. Director General Parliamentary Development Programme, Ms. Samer Awais welcomed the session participants and highlighted the significance of Public Accounts Committees in bringing transparency and effective governance in the country. Chairman Board, Accountability Lab Pakistan (ALP), Mr. Ali Imran apprised the audience regarding his organizations’ role in assisting Public Accounts Committee of the Balochistan for its better functioning. Executive Director, PIPS Mr. Muhammad Anwar, greeted the Honourable members and lauded efforts of ALP and PIPS for organizing a session on the nned for reforms for effective functioning of Public Accounts Committee. He opined that an effective committee system could achieve tangible accountability of the executive.
After a brief round of introductions, DG PDP&C, Ms. Samer Awais requested Mr. Sahibzada Nazeer Khan, Deputy Director (PAC), National Assembly Secretariat to commence his session. Mr. Nazeer Khan explained the evolution of the PAC that was first constituted in 1992 and elaborated on various functions of the PAC as mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of National and Provincial Assemblies. PAC’s basic function, he described, was to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the Assembly for the expenditure of the Government. He apprised the members of the Suo moto powers of the Committee and its use by the Committee members. Mr. Sahabzada briefly discussed the PAC principles/benchmarks that should be in place for its effective functioning and clarified that the Committee was not involved with the appointment of any of the officers.
He presented a list of recommendations for PAC to enhance the significance of PAC.
Mr. Muhammad Mohsin Khan, Former Controller General of Accounts, discussed reforms required in PAC at length.
He highlighted the significant role of a Principal Accounting Officer and his active involvement in informing PAC Committee Secretary of the grants allocated to the Government.
He emphasized on strengthening the internal audit control framework to as effective analysis of expenditure is possible when an efficient evaluation mechanism is in place.
He stressed that audit paras should not be repetitive, and that each Ministry should plan budget cycles on needs basis.
He informed the participants of the tools available for analysis of funds allocated to each Government department in the form of reports example Audit reports and investigating reports. He commended Balochistan PAC on taking up “Auditor qualified general report”. He shared with the members, programme evaluation techniques and the tools that they could use to examine audit paras that were Cause, Criteria, Condition, Effect and Recommendation.
He suggested development of a fully independent and empowered power evaluation cell to look into grants utilization as Pakistan PAC relied heavily on the Auditor General.
He requested the Honourable Members of Balochistan PAC to carry out performance evaluation/audit of the Development organizations currently working in Balochistan, to ensure implementation of their projects.
Discussing the challenges faced by the PAC, he pointed out capacity constraints as PAC staff was not properly trained to look after the Committee. He commented that there also needs to be a revision in PAC rules.
He highlighted the importance of institutional development and amendments in laws in order to speed up the forensic audit.
He suggested Balochistan PAC to take an initiative on Audit courts as based on the African Model and ensure implementation of PFRA projects beneficial for the development of Balochistan.
He recommended on developing a decision support system for better cash forecasting analysis.
He stressed on the vital role of Chairman PAC that he should develop a non-partisan approach while conducting the meeting allocating equal time to all members to raise relevant issues, and called out for equal accountability to all departments.
PAC Member, Balochistan, Mr. Abdul Qadir Nasar informed the audience of the current work being carried out by the committee. He apprised that an internal audit unit has already been setup through the support of World Bank and Balochistan PAC was successful in implementation of laws including the Public Financial Management Act 2022 and Public Investment Management Act 2022.
Mr. Mohsin commended the active and efficient measures taken by the Balochistan PAC. Mr. Akhtar Hussain Langau (PAC Chairman, Balochistan) stressed on further strengthening the committee and apprised members over various steps taken in efficient functioning of the Committee. He stressed on the significance of practical training instead of classroom lectures and held meeting in this regard with AGP to work on the lacunas regarding committees work. He informed the audience that Balochistan PAC was the first computerized PAC of Pakistan. In her closing remarks, Director General PDP, Ms. Samer Awais, thanked the members for their active participation throughout the workshop and for sharing valuable suggestions in reforming the PAC. The session concluded with a shield distribution ceremony by Accountability Lab Pakistan.