ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Tuesday directed the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to carry out the performance and regulatory audit of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) within 15 days invoking Article 170 (2) of the Constitution amid strong reservation of the authority and the Cabinet Division.
Noor Alam Khan, chairing the meeting of the PAC took notice that eight government entities which denied AGP to carry out their performance and regulatory audit.
The authorities come under the ambit of the Cabinet Division are the NEPRA, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, and the Frequency Allocation Board.
While four subsidiaries of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (Com-pany Ltd (PTCL), Pakistan Telecommunication Employee Trust (PTET), Telecom Foundation (TF), TF Pipes (Ltd) are refusing the AGP an access to their records.
The chairman read out Article (170) of the constitution which says, “The audit of the accounts of the Federal and of the Provincial Governments and the accounts of any authority or body established by, or under the control of, the Federal or a Provincial Government shall be conducted by the Auditor-General, who shall determine the extent and nature of such audit”.
Chairman NEPRA Tauseef H Farooqi said the auditors were holding audit of the financial accounts of the authority, however, performance and regulatory audit would have serious consequences as authority engaged in tariff determination and international agreements. In addition to this, he said the AGP had no capability and expertise to carry out the power sector audit.
Secretary Cabinet Aamir Ashraf Khawaja sought time from the committee to come up with a final stance as a committee headed in the previous government of the PTI was established with than finance minister Shaukat Tareen held two meetings but remained inconclusive and later the government changed. He assured the committee members that he would come back with recommendations in some time.
Sheikh Rohale Asghar said that all the decisions on tariff determination or international agreements were vetted by the Cabinet, the NEPRA could not take any decision on its own. So, he argued there were no serious consequences to be faced by the authority if the AGP carried out the audit.
In his ruling, the chairman directed the AGP to carry out 62 percent shares of the Government of Pakistan in the PTCL. Earlier, the secretary IT informed the committee that these entities were their own board of directors and registered with the SECP. He further argued that the matter of holding the audit of these entities had been pending in court of law.
In its judgement in 2018, the apex court directed the AGP to conduct the hearing of all refusing entities including PTCL to determine if they could be audited by AGP. After a hearing in 2018, a speaking order was issued by AGP in which the PTCL was declared liable to be audited by AGP.
The said order was challenged by the PTCL in the Sindh High Court which set aside the speaking order on March 9, 2020, with the direction to the AGP for de novo determination in accordance with the law.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023