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Arrests over corruption send shock waves through bureaucracy

Officials say so fearful that they`re reluctant to decide on financial matters By Manzoor Ali 2015-09-01
PESHAWAR: The arrest of several government officials by accountability bodies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over corruption has caused resentment and fear among bureaucracy.

Over the last few months, the National Accountability Bureau and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission have arrested several senior officials over the alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

There are also rumours about many more such arrests in near future.

Some officials told Dawn on condition of anonymity that arrest of senior members of bureaucracy had struck fear into their hearts, especially about financial matters.

An official said the August 26 arrest of industries secretary Sajid Jadoon by the Ehtesab Commission was interesting as he was the member of the cabinet committee on Ehtesab law reforms.

According to him, the committeeis led by senior minister for local government Inayatullah Khan and has health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai as member.

Jadoon, who is also the president of the Provincial Civil Service Officers Association, had submitted a working paper about reforming the accountability law.

`The arrest of Mr Jadoon, who led the PCS officers` movement against Pakistan Administrative Service, is meaningful as all those arrested so far belong to the provincial service.

There is resentment among the provincial service officers, who feel they are being targeted,` the official said.

He said the arrests being made by the Ehtesab Commission were premature as first, they arrested people and later investigated corruption charges tarnishing their image.

`Jadoon was called for interview and was picked up by the commission,` he said, adding that ideally, the commission should not arrest those cooperating with investigators.

The official said compared to NAB, where a board authorised arrests, the Ehtesab Commission director general gave the go-ahead to arrests on his own.

He said in the first instance, the government officials were subjected to the Government Servants (Efficiency And Discipline) Rules.

The ofHeial said the procedural lapses were first needed to be inves-tigated by a departmental panel and involved civil law but the commission`s intervention turned such cases into criminal ones.

He said government officials were reluctant to decide about monetary matters.

`The finance and planning and development departments are now not allowing their officials to attend meeting of the department consultant selection committee (DSCS), procurement and purchase committees,` he said.

A planning and development official said his department had formally directed its officials to stay away from meetings on procurements, bid opening and consultant selection in future through a notification issued on July 13.

He said the notification was issued following the arrest of a deputy secretary of the department by the anticorruption establishment on June 29.

A senior official at the mining department, which has been the subject of NAB and Ehtesab Commission investigations, told Dawn that every day or second, people of accountability bodies showed up and began quizzing officials on one matter or the other.

`It is spreading fear among officials, who now fear signing official papers,` he said.

The official said bureaucracy wasnot opposed to accountability but felt there should be mechanisms to protect people`s reputation and good name.

`If these (accountability) guys arrest me on the corruption charges and tomorrow such charges are not proved, even then I won`t be able to face my family, friends and colleagues,` he said, adding that there was no escape from the label of being a corrupt.

When contacted, senior minister Shahram Khan Tarakai, who is also the member of the cabinet committee on the Ehtesab law reforms, said the panel was thoroughly examining the matter.

`We have listened to the government officials as well as Ehtesab Commission DG on the accountability law issue and are committed to bringing improvements to the law, he said. Shahram however said the committee had so far not made any decision.

`We`ve heard about premature arrests and other issues related to the law. No one should be arrested without investigation. It is also against the fundamental rights of the people,` he said.

The minister said accountability should take place but it wouldn`t prudent if the people of good reputation were detained on mere charges and tomorrow nothing was proved against them.