Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) in collaboration with Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) conducted a series of Orientation workshops in the year 2019—2020. These knowledge sharing sessions conducted for PAC Committee Members and officers provided a forum to disseminate information about the Rules of Procedure and best parliamentary practices with the aim to strengthen the oversight and scrutiny function of Public Accounts Committees.
Culminating those discussions, PIPS and WFD organized a three-day National Conference on “the Role of Public Accounts Committees in Pakistan” from September 16-18, 2020 at Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel, Bhurban. The conference was attended by the Honourable Chairpersons, Members and the officers of the PACs of the National and provincial Legislatures. Resource persons from different sectors of Government including Provincial and National Parliament, Audit Department and Controller General of Accounts as well as international experts provided their valuable input to the knowledge base of the participants.
The conference provided an opportunty to compare the best practices of the PACs of different houses and to facilitate a discussion on the introduction of intended reforms. The conference was inaugurated by Honourable Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, the Speaker and Chairman PAC, the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mr. Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director, PIPS, and Syed Mujtaba Ali Zaidi, Country Representative WFD welcomed the participants to the conference. Ms. Samer Awais, Director General, Parliamentary Programme, PIPS offered a brief summary of the initiative that PIPS and WFD embarked upon for the capacity building of PAC members and officers.
In the first session of the conference, Mr. Qamar Sohail Lodhi, Special Secretary PAC, National Assembly of Pakistan discussed the standing of PACs in Pakistan, comparing them to the Common Wealth PAC Matrix. Mr. Faisal Hayat, through a practicum involving the enablers and blockers in the functioning of the PAC, broadened the participants’ understanding of the working of the PAC.
The second day commenced with the comparative analysis of the Rules of Procedures of all the PACs in Pakistan. The panellists included Mr. Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director, PIPS, Mr. Amjad Ali, Additional Secretary, provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Mr. Muhammad Mohsin Khan, former Controller General of Accounts, Pakistan. This was followed by a lively discussion whereby facilitators and participants identified the key areas needing reforms for the effective functioning of PACs. Honourable Munaza Hassan, MNA, member Federal PAC, Honourable Dr. Malik Mukhtar Ahmed, MNA, and former Chairman PAC II, Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, and Honourable Muhammad Qasim Soomro, MPA, member PAC Provincial Assembly of Sindh spoke in the session and responded to the queries of participants.
The afternoon session was dedicated to technical sessions encompassing the concept of Performance Audits, Effective Questioning techniques and need for Public Outreach. Through virtual sessions, Mr. Philip Aylett, Senior Clerk House of Commons, UK and Ms. Ayesha Siddiq, Director General, Performance Audit Wing, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) Office, compared the evolution and practices in Performance Auditing in UK and Pakistan; Mr. Geoff Dubrow, Public Finance Management(PFM) and PAC specialist shed light on the way the participants could ask effective, tailored and cutting edge questions from the relevant departments; Mr. Philip Aylett shared the public engagement practices followed in UK and how they could be incorporated in the functioning of PACs in Pakistan.
Day three of the conference focussed upon the strategic relationship between the office of Auditor General of Pakistan and the PACs. Session was facilitated by Honourable Riaz Fatyana, MNA, Honourable Senator Naseebullah Bazai, Mr. Muhammad Mohsin Khan, former Controller General of Accounts Pakistan and Mr. Shareefullah Wazir, former Additional Auditor General Pakistan. Moderated by Ms. Samer Awais, discussion highlighted the pressing need of strengthening a viable mode of interaction and communication between the stake holders. It was followed by a quick recap and key takeaways of the initiative in the form of proposed reforms, as the way forward.
It was a rare moment of pride that all the provinces and the PACs in Pakistan were represented in the conference. The closing ceremony was presided by Honourable Rana Tanveer Hussain, Chairman Federal PAC, who articulated the working and performance of the federal PAC in his concluding remarks. The conference was formally concluded through the vote of thanks by Mr. Muhamad Anwar, Executive Director, PIPS who appreciated the work done by both the PIPS team and WFD team for organizing the conference and paid his regards to the resource persons and the participants of the event.