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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, on Tuesday, barred the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) from creating a secret service fund for any purpose as it involved public money and cannot be audited.

A sub-committee on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) met here under convener Sherry Rehman, which examined the Federal Tax Ombudsman Audit Report 2012-13 and 2014-15. The committee grilled the FTO official over the Rs 7.4 million public money disbursed under secret service fund by the FTO for investigation of the ISAF containers scam in October 2010.

Supreme Court of Pakistan referred the scam to the FTO for investigation. An audit official informed the committee that provision of creation of a secret service fund was not in the FTO Ordinance 2000; however, it empowered the FTO to pay a reward or remuneration to any person for exceptional services rendered or valuable assistance given and withhold the identity of such a person.

A representative of the Finance Division argued that the fund was established after due approval from the Finance Division and it also contributed Rs 1,000 as seed money to open the account. Convener asked secretary FTO, if they had vouchers or record of disbursement.

The secretary replied that they did not have as the FTO withheld the identity of the person, if so requested by the person concerned, and take steps to provide due protection under the law to such a person against harassment, victimisation, retribution, reprisals or retaliation.

In its observations, the parliamentary panel asked the FTO to discontinue creation of any secret fund in the future. She said various Pakistan embassies also established such secret funds but she as ambassador (USA) discontinued the fund as these funds involved public money.

The committee also examined the president Secretariat (personal) Audit Report 2013-14 and 2014-15. The committee was apprised that a committee under the Minister for Education was established to amend the President's Salary, Allowances and Privilege Act 1975. The audit official said that Rs 45 million and Rs 26.23 million excess expenditure was made on dispensary establishment and maintenance of garden on the approval from the Cabinet Division during the audited years, which was not entitled to enhance the allocation of funds without amendment in the Act.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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