To curtail deficit, Govt okays substantive austerity


ISLAMABAD - The federal government has approved austerity measures for the ongoing financial year of 2012-2013, reducing travelling allowance by 20 per cent and banning purchase of physical assets including all types of vehicles.
Sources said the government had approved the measures to control its soaring expenditures to keep budget deficit under control during the ongoing fiscal year. According to the notification, the government has imposed a ban on the purchase of physical assets, including all types of vehicles, while expenditure on travel allowance and repair of transport would be reduced by 20 per cent of allocated budget and only one daily newspaper will be allowed to the entitled officers.
Under the plan, the officers will not be allowed to use air-conditioners before 11am while they are barred from keeping AC thermostat below 26 degree and principal accounting officers will ensure rationalisation of utility bills. As per the plan, the ministries/divisions will not be authorised to re-appropriate funds from the abovementioned heads of expenditures. Official lunches/dinners will be limited, said the notification, adding that all ministries/divisions were requested to issue these instructions to all departments concerned for strict compliance. The austerity plan is for the ongoing financial year 2012-2013 that started from July 1.
Meanwhile, the Public  Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered Federal Board of Revenue to submit a detailed report on the financial accounts of the department which had not being presented to the Committee.
Chairman PAC Nadeem Afzal Gondal directed FBR to present a report, within a month, to PAC about the implementation of recommendations of PAC and Departmental Accounts Committee regarding the audit paras of FBR’s financial accounts for the last seven years. Auditors told the committee that FBR is not giving AGPR access to the statistics of Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited, despite the clear orders of the Supreme Court and High Courts.  They further said PAC has also issued orders in this regard.
However, Chairman FBR, Ali Arshad Hakeem and his team held the stance that Peshawar High Court directed FBR not to hand over record of businessmen and tax-payers to AGPR and the Law Ministry has not given any clear directions in this regard.
At this, PAC directed FBR to resolve the dispute through negotiations with Auditor General Pakistan within 10 days.
In reply to another question, Chairman FBR said the national identity card number has not been given the status of national tax number as yet.  Member Customs Department told PAC that different departments are using cars, which were taken into custody, as their numbers were fake, and such vehicles cannot be sold. Chairman asked to submit a report regarding these cars.
Replying to the questions, Chairman FBR said cases worth Rs 50 billion are pending in different courts, adding, that during last year, the Supreme Court and the High Courts gave verdict of 545 and 36 cases respectively.  He said in case of financial irregularities, officers on deputation are answerable to the same department and not to the original department.
At this point, Auditor General of Pakistan said different officers flatter the high-ups for deputation in other department but it is responsibility of head of the department not to depute an officer already involved in financial irregularities in other departments.
Responding to criticism of the members of PAC, Chairman FBR, Ali Arshad Hakeem said it is need of the hour to deal with the financial corruption going on in different departments.
He said he will try to eliminate mafias active in FBR, however, he said he cannot do anything about the culture of favouritism.

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