ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar on Monday clarified that there was no irregularity committed during Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) disbursements, besides there were no allegations from Audit of mis-procurement and procurement violations.
“There was no violation of rules, no financial mismanagement, no loss to the exchequer, no wasteful expenditure, no overpayments, no unauthorized retention, and no instances of “nonproduction of records”; and no corruption,” said Dr Sania in an informal talk with selective group of media.
She further said that BISP had disbursed Rs179 billion and there was no allegations of corruption in it.
The “Audit Report on the Expenditure incurred on COVID 19 by the federal government” covered audit of various agencies involved in response to COVID-19, including NDMA, various Ministries, USC, as well as BISP, which executed Ehsaas Emergency Cash was placed on website of Ministry of Finance after the talks with IMF.
Dr Sania Nishtar informed the media that audit observations related to Ehsaas Emergency Cash were mainly of a “technical” and “advisory nature”. She said that despite its massive operations both in terms of coverage and fiscal quantum in a context of strict lockdowns, there were only few audit observations related to Ehsaas.
Informs audit observations related to Ehsaas Cash are mainly of a ‘technical’ and ‘advisory nature’
She explained about these audit observations. One of the audit observations was about non-disbursement of COVID 19 cash transfers to 1.32 million enrolled/registered beneficiaries. She explained that BISP enrolled total of 16.9 million beneficiaries. Out of these, 14.8 million beneficiaries were disbursed an amount of Rs. 179.2 billion. However, 1.3 million beneficiaries never came forward to collect their money despite extensive campaigns. This Audit observation was purely of a service quality nature. There was no irregularity was observed or identified by audit in this observation, she added. Another audit observation was cash transfers to government servants including pensioners.
She said that government’s payrolls are not digitized. For the first time in the history of the country, BISP exited around 850,000 undeserving individuals from BISP’s lists under Ehsaas’ reform policy. “We have access to data of provincial and federal govt servants which have been exited from our lists. We have requested for data of autonomous agencies and pensioners repeatedly through written requests but have not received it so far,” she said and added this audit observation was a recommendation, and no irregularity was observed.
Similarly, one more audit observation was cash transfers to those beneficiaries having filers status as per FBR record. Sania Nishtar said that exclusion based on existence of tax filer status was not one of the exclusion criteria approved by the Cabinet for Ehsaas Emergency Cash. These individuals sought assistance from the state during lockdowns when their businesses were closed; this was the purpose of Ehsaas Cash to provide relief at a time of lockdowns.
To the audit observation about withdrawal of COVID 19 cash grants from both BISP and Zakat by same beneficiaries, Sania Nishtar informed that exclusion based on whether a person was a Zakaat recipient was not one of the exclusion criteria approved by the Cabinet for Ehsaas emergency cash. There was full compliance with cabinet approved eligibility criteria. Another observation was wrong profiling of beneficiaries resulted in release of cash transfers to both spouses. She said that as a policy, we verify from NADRA if a couple reported ‘married’ in our survey is actually married; in other words, we are dependent on NADRA for verification of marital status. NADRA has no way of knowing about marital status, if a man and woman aren’t registered as “married” in their database. NADRA certified that in 125,536 out of the 133,087 cases highlighted by Audit, there was no linkage of man and woman being “married” in the NADRA databases. For the remainder 7551 beneficiaries, where a doubt arose, we have already made recoveries and have deposited in the money in the treasury. No irregularity or non-compliance identified on the part of BISP, she maintained.