According to the Auditor General of Pakistan, irregularities causing a loss of over Rs.3661 million to the national exchequer have been reported in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board (KPTBB). The body is being held liable for the overproduction of books, missing sales records and sales tax evasion at a time when, ironically, the region is reporting a shortage of textbooks. Not only is this highly problematic but it has incurred unnecessary losses. The report contains enough information to determine who is responsible and must make reparations for this scam.

The auditor’s report highlighted a few basic irregularities; the KPTBB’s Sale wing was guilty of the nonproduction of auditable records of book sales worth at least Rs.26,750 million, failing to pay Rs.1.75 billion in sales tax and printing an excess of 41,983,315 books during the last three years. All in all, Rs.3661 million has been reported in losses that must come out of the pockets of the officers who allowed for such underhanded schemes to exist. This was a gross violation of the responsibility entrusted upon these officers and for people in positions of authority—like Minister for Education Shahram Khan Tarakai—to say that his team is ‘analysing’ the report instead of taking it for what it is and taking action accordingly indicates that there is little remorse for what happened on the provincial government’s watch. Delayed action is not acceptable.

An investigation must be launched immediately so that claims of ‘showing no leniency’ actually have some weight. Furthermore, the trickle-down effect of such scams is such that the entire province is paying for it. Schools in KP are reporting a shortage of books with each class being provided only two or three books only. The education sector is clearly operating inefficiently and the primary cause of this is the corrupt attitude of certain members of the ministry. The amount of money lost is enormous and there has to be a way to reimburse it. Reparations seems to be the only solution that is just and alongside prison sentences, this should set a precedent to discourage these practices in the future. We must also draft solid policies for procurement and tender granting processes and inculcate more transparency in these processes.