Startling revelations have been made in a parliamentary testimony by the Ministry of Finance that it has no knowledge about the whereabouts of over Rs821 billion, except Rs6.458bn, that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) claimed to have recovered since its inception some 16 years ago.
During the briefing, the finance ministry also expressed its inability that it could not ask the anti-graft watchdog about the remaining Rs815bn. Reportedly, the money was not being deposited in government accounts. Now, the NAB itself has come under fire as it has to clear its position regarding the depositing of this huge amount of money. In a paper sent to the Senate committee, NAB has claimed that it recovered Rs76 billion as voluntary refund or plea-bargain, Rs122 billion as bank loan default recoveries, Rs60 billion recovery on account of restructuring of loans, Rs46 billion court fines imposed and over Rs500 billion in different ‘indirect recoveries’ in the past 16 years. The committee has decided to write to the auditor general of Pakistan and NAB (Accounts) director general to appear before it prior to the next meeting.
NAB has come under radar for its performance. The performance of the NAB can be gauged from the fact that in its 16 years of operation, NAB has not made a significant difference in the levels of corruption in the country or held corrupt politicians, businessmen and white-collar criminals accountable for their crimes. Corrupt government officials, entrepreneurs and organised criminals have been allowed to loot the country and have gone unchecked through plea bargains. Now it seems that the parliament is holding NAB accountable for not eradicating corruption in the country, which is the logical first step to making all state dealings clean and transparent. To truly crackdown on corruption, NAB must be made more efficient and the Bureau needs to look into the weaknesses of the organisation and introduce a “monitoring and evaluation framework” to maximise results in pursuing corruption cases. NAB should also not have the sole authority of judging corruption cases or striking plea bargain deals without the approval of a court because that lies within the jurisdiction of the judiciary.