Embezzlement of funds: Foreign Office asks PAC to ‘give it a break’

* FO seeks time from parliamentary committee to make presentation before it over alleged appropriation of millions of rupees in Pakistani missions abroad

ISLAMABAD: Faced with the upcoming inquiry into the alleged embezzlement of funds amounting to millions of rupees and failing to fulfil the official requirements on this count, the Foreign Office has sought time from a parliamentary committee to make related presentation before it.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to examine the appropriation of funds, and regular and special audit reports of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) for the year 1998-99 in its meetings scheduled on April 15 and 16. In this regard, the Foreign Office, under the rules, is required to hold a mandatory internal meeting before the PAC meeting, not later than April 10, to prepare the related reports to be presented before the PAC, sources in the Foreign Office told Daily Times. 
Sources quoted officials as saying that the MoFA has requested the PAC for some time to hold the internal meeting. According to reports, a mandatory annual meeting of the MoFA’s Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) was scheduled on April 1 under the chair of Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry. The meeting could not be held due to the reason that the foreign secretary, who is reportedly suffering from a serious ailment, was not feeling well and was undergoing medical treatment. 
The Foreign Office would be able to participate in the PAC meeting and respond to the audit objections only if the DAC meeting is held by or before April 10, the insiders said. Reportedly, the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenues (AGPR), in its annual audit reports, has detected irregularities amounting to millions of rupees in MoFA’s spending of funds in the stated years. Serious objections have been raised in 57 audit paras that are to be examined in the PAC meeting, the sources informed. 
These mostly concern the blatant misuse of the funds by the Pakistani diplomatic missions abroad where the Pakistani ambassadors or high commissioners were found excessively misusing their discretionary powers, incurring heavy expenditures on diplomatic functions, giving away gifts to foreign dignitaries and organising related activities beyond their official entitlements or designated budget, the Foreign Office sources said.
When contacted, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam Khan confirmed that the DAC meeting was mandatory ahead of the PAC meeting. She, however, expressed ignorance regarding the non-conduct of the DAC meeting and MoFA’s subsequent request to the PAC for more time. “The matter is not in my knowledge,” she said.

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