Food Ministry is withholding Rs 426m
By Mohammad Imran
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is unhappy that the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock has not surrendered Rs 426 million in six different grants for financial year 2000-2001.
The PAC chairman directed all government ministries and divisions to strengthen their internal financial controls and strictly monitor the use of their budgetary allocations. The PAC meeting discussed the appropriation of accounts and the audit report of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock for financial year 2000-2001.
“During the PAC meeting, some Opposition members strongly criticised the chairman for cancelling a previous PAC meeting because he wanted to be in Attock for the submission of prime minister in-waiting Shaukat Aziz’s by-election nomination papers,” Hafiz Hussain Ahmed told Daily Times after the meeting.
Mr Ahmed said that the PAC meeting was initially scheduled for July 6, but the chairman delayed it by one day. He said that some members believed that the government would suffer a financial loss because of the delay forcing the government to pay travelling expenses and daily allowances to members and officials who attended the meeting. He said the PAC chairman apologised to the committee for the delay. “The committee regularised various audit observations subject to confirmation by the Audit Department as recommended by the Departmental Accounts Committee,” a press release said. The PAC chairman also asked the ministries not to demand unnecessary supplementary grants and surrender the unspent amount within the time stipulated by the Finance Ministry.
PAC also constituted a sub-committee under MNA Syed Qurban Ali Shah to investigate the loss caused by the purchases of fertiliser worth $134 million at a higher price. The sub-committee is to suggest action to PAC against those responsible for the loss to the national exchequer within one month. While discussing the audit details pertaining to the loss incurred by accepting defective fertilisers worth $1.75 million, PAC ordered penalties for the supplier and disciplinary action against the director of the Fertiliser Import Department.
According to the details given by the Audit Department, a consignment of 31,475 metric tonnes of fertiliser was purchased from Conagra Ltd. Upon arrival and testing, it was discovered that the fertiliser was nutrient deficient. However, the consignment was still accepted. The committee directed the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock to inform the PAC committee about the progress in the investigation. PAC also discussed the performance of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee. The chairman observed that a strong system of internal control, proper record keeping and record computerisation must be established.
The chairman also directed the cotton committee to increase funds allocated for research activities and proper accounting of the cotton cess. The meeting was attended by MNAs Muhammad Safdar Shakir, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Riaz Fatyana, Kanwar Khalid Yunis, Liaqat Baloch, Major Tanvir Hussain Syed, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Lt Col (r) Ghulam Rasool Sahi, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, Wasi Zafar, Chaudhry Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Professor Asiya Azeem, Syed Qurban Ali Shah, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar. The deputy auditor general of Pakistan, accountant general of Pakistan, secretary of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and other department officers also attended the meeting.