Headed by Nadeem Afzal Chan, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday criticised the misuse of 22 luxury and bullet-proof vehicles as rules did not allow anyone to use vehicles above engine capacity of 1,800cc.
It’s the first time the PAC has issued directives against politicians and military brass as the body has so far taken only bureaucrats to task.
“The PAC unanimously decides that by June 15 either all vehicles should be withdrawn or rules be amended supporting the use of luxury vehicles,” Chan said.
The matter came to the notice of the PAC after seven years and if it did not take any decision on merit, the members would be remembered in history as ‘dishonest’, he said.
The PAC cautioned that if by June 15 the vehicles were not taken back, the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) would frame charges to recover the cost of vehicles and expenses incurred on maintenance from the users.
Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi told the committee that the vehicles were bought from a grant issued to the Intelligence Bureau in 2005. The total cost of the vehicles was Rs600 million, Sethi said, adding that then prime minister Shaukat Aziz had ordered the purchase of these vehicles.
Total grant issued to the Intelligence Bureau was Rs2.4 billion. But according to audit documents, from Sept 2004 to Feb 2005 three supplementary grants amounting to Rs1.2 billion were sanctioned for the purchase of vehicles.
Responding to a question, Sethi said that under the rules a secretary could use up to 1,300cc car, and a minister was allowed up to 1,800cc cars, admitting that rules did not permit bullet-proof and luxury cars.
Who is using bullet-proof cars
Currently, Sethi said, the vehicles were being used by Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Genl Khalid Shameem Wynne, Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Industries Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker and Balochistan and KP chief ministers.
Among politicians, Asfandyar Wali of the Awami National Party, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and PML-N President Nawaz Sharif were using the vehicles. “These vehicles were permitted by my predecessors and I cannot dare to call back those,” Sethi stressed.
At the same time, she pointed out that the government was incurring heavy expenses on the maintenance of bullet-proof vehicles and the amount spent on the maintenance of one vehicle could buy a new corolla.
“The use of these cars must not be continued indefinitely and these must be taken back,” said AGP Akhtar Buland Rana.
Sethi said that the premier was using 2005 model cars which were quite old, prompting Noor Alam, a PPP MNA, to remind the secretary that Pakistan was a poor nation and could not afford such luxuries.
‘Misuse’ of authority
In a case of misuse of authority, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Muhammad Yaseen sanctioned an Eid allowance of Rs350,000 for himself, inviting the wrath of PAC.
The matter came to light when the PAC chairman asked the PTA chief whether he had taken an Eid allowance. “I took Eidi as PTA chairman to which I am entitled,” said Yaseen.
Trying to justify his action, Yaseen said that since 2008 the government had not increased packages for professional management posts. To this, the PAC chairman said that if he was dissatisfied with his package he should have resigned.
“The gross package of PTA chairman is Rs1 million per month while I serve on a constitutional post and my total salary is Rs150,000,” countered AGP Rana.