PESHAWAR: Despite lapse of couple of years, the much propagated KP Ehtesab Commission has yet to come up to the desired expectations of making corrupt people accountable, as it is still ahead with a number of issues, because, it has been run on contractual basis so far.
An insider in the commission said that currently, headed by acting director general with all officials on contract basis and frequent amendments to the commission Act and staff shortage are considered major hurdle to led to an active accountability institution.
Due to these loopholes, the commission has yet to work properly and that’s why, some of the arrested government officials and lawmakers on corruption charges have been made free. And one of them is the PTI own-disgruntled MPA Ziaullah Afridi.
Though Mr. Afridi, who was the minister for mines and minerals at that time, was apprehended on corruption charges and kept behind bars for about 15 months; however, he was released when the commission failed to provide accurate proofs against him.
Officials in the KPEC on condition of anonymity told The News Eye that repeated amendments in the act, nepotism in recruitments have badly affected the performance of the commission to achieve its objectives. According to officials, all amendments were made to the law without the commissioners’ consultation.
So far only 25 references could be filed at Ehtesab courts where complaints like delayed and ‘faulty or incomplete chalans are produced before the courts. The suspects taking complete advantage of the loopholes in references get bails from Peshawar High Court.
A senior official, who also requested not to be named, said that a total of 102 seats were sanctioned by the government for the Investigation wing of the commission.
“Only 24 recruitments have been made so far of which only 15 investigation officers are performing their duties,” the official said. The current investigation staff is overburden, the official said.
“Keeping in view shortage of staff and limited resources, lapses in references could not be ruled out, benefiting suspects to easily get bail from high court,” said the official.
Senior lawyer Peshawar Shamail Ahmad Butt, legal expert in constitutional and corporate law, said told The News Eye it seemed KPEC was being run on makeshift basis without permanent director general contractual staff.
Untrained Investigation Wing
A recent report prepared by Independent Monitoring Unit of the commission has found gross violations of merit in recruitment of officials especially of investigation wing. Officers in the investigation wing have no experience to investigate the white collar crime, disclosed in the report.
Showing violations in recruitments pointed out in the report, the officials said that eligibility for the post of additional director investigation was graduation while an FA passed retired colonel Sardar Ali was appointed who, at that time, was also acting director investigation.
Similarly, Rahim Khan, who is a matriculate, was appointed as assistant director. His age at the time of appointment was 65 years while age limit in the advertisement was 63 years, revealed in the report.
Besides, the commission sought applications of retired grade-17 officers were sought for the post of assistant director investigation. But in the end a retired subedar major who retired in grade 16 was appointed.
“Major Ahsan (retd) who was previously working as personal secretary to director general was appointed as additional director investigation in grade-19 in clear violation of merit,” the report finds.
The report also said major Ahsan had contested election on a provincial assembly seat from Hazara.
Even commissioners at the Ehtesab Commission had ordered inquiry against him in which he was found guilty of charges yet he neither disqualified nor restrained from attending meetings of the executive board.
Colonel (retd) Amjid who would work with Counter Terrorism Department and his application was rejected twice was appointed as director investigation in February 2016 and worked on the seat for 20 days.
According to the report seven vacancies of additional director, one additional director, 22 assistant directors and 36 junior investigation officers vacancies are still laying vacant.
“Subedar (retd) Tariq, naib subedar (retd) Hafiz Anwar and junior commanding officer (retd) Darwaish, all of them retired in grade 16, were appointed at KPEC,” the official said while showing copy of the report.
The report also revealed that eligibility for the post of assistant director investigation was reduced to grade 16 from grade 17 to accommodate its blue-eyed.
“How a politically appointed investigation officer, who is on contract, can initiate an inquiry against influential persons and politically well-connected people,” commented another junior official.
However Deputy Prosecutor General Zahid Aman told The News Eye that rules and regulations have been formed and permanent recruitment would be made soon.
“In my view, the prosecution team has no expertise in corporate law and white collar crimes which are why all references it filed pending before the courts and suspects bail out from high court,” Shamail Butt commented.
When the law was passed, there was no retrospective effect was given to it which mean that it would only be applied to corruption and corrupt practices. Amendment was made and retrospective effect was given making applicable since 2003.
Then another question was raised whether Criminal Procedure Code would be applicable to KPEC Act or not for which another amendment was made making it applicable to the act.
However, Deputy Prosecutor General Zahid Aman dismissed the notion that investigation and prosecution wings were untrained and said references properly investigated and prepared were filed in courts.
He said that KPEC’s investigation team was highly trained to investigation and doing well with available limited resources. Another prosecutor Lajbar Khan dismissed that billions were wasted by setting up billions of tax payers’ money.
“Only Rs480 millions have been spent so far on the commission but we have saved billions with strict monitoring over the affairs of government departments” he said while talking to The News Eye.
The amendments have also made work of the commission complicated. Under section 36 of Act, the director general or any officer authorized by him could arrest any person for purpose of inquiry or investigation.
The power of DG was curtailed through a recent amendment as the Ehtesab courts were empowered to order arrest of any suspect of corruption and corrupt practices.
Again the provincial government on August 3 passed another act called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission Act (Amendment) Act 2016, curtailing certain powers of commissioners.
The government also barred the DG from taking action in any ongoing project on basis of procedural lapses. The government further amended the same section with further restricting his power. The DG was barred from taking action in ongoing schemes of government from current budget or developmental budget.
Regarding permission of the court to arrest a suspect, Lajbar Khan said the commission informed the court that the commission wanted to arrest a person involved in corruption and corrupt practices on basis of these evidence.
He said KPEC prosecutors are available at the courts whose duties are to contest the cases while conviction and disposal are courts’ prerogative. Officials at the commission have been doing a good job in the available limited resources.
“If KPEC could not become a vibrant accountability body then its failure of the government not our fault,” commented an official in the commission.
However, Ziaullah Afridi is thinking otherwise, he says that KPEC has wasted precious time and money of the national exchequer, and that’s why he said that “Instead of making others accountable, let’s first start the accountability of KPEC”.