PAC comes down hard on defence secretary

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday took serious notice of the dissatisfactory performance of Defence and Defence Production Secretary Lt Gen (r) Syed Athar Ali Khan and strictly directed him to come fully prepared in the next meeting.The PAC meeting was held at the Parliament House under the chairmanship of opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to review the audit objections about the irregularities in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), raised by the audit general of Pakistan (AGP).Audit officials informed the committee that the Pakistan Army had been using government land falling in A-1 category, worth Rs 120.767 billion, for commercial purposes. The audit report for Financial Year 2010-11 revealed that the relinquishment of the land of Fortress Stadium would be based on at the rate of Rs150,000 per square yard, while the recovery to be effected as in the case of a private treaty arrangement would be amounting to a sum of arrears, already worked out in the special audit report, up to Rs 1.386 billion, excluding cost of land referred to above, which would be equal to Rs 122.154 billion.

Defence Secretary Lt Gen (r) Syed Athar Ali informed the PAC that an amendment in the existing policy on commercial use of A-1 land would soon be tabled in the Cabinet Secretariat for final approval in order to stop the armed forces from using A-1 military land for commercial purposes. Opposing the audit report of defence services for 2008-09, the secretary informed the PAC that the ministry had felt the need to make the use of A-1 military land more transparent, therefore this decision had been taken after cases of misuse of military land came to surface.The secretary, however, said that the audit para had incorrectly been conceived. The measurement of military land used for commercial purposes in Lahore was not 166 acres, but only 13 acres. The committee expressed dismay over the unauthorised occupation of A-1 land measuring 107.29 acres without prior approval of the government as well as non-recovery of rent amounting to Rs 5.922 million from the National Logistics Cell (NLC) as was revealed by the record of the Military Estate Office (MEO) Gujranwala.

The secretary informed the PAC that the ministry was fully committed to determine the capacity of the NLC and the decision on the administrative and financial control of the NLC would be taken next month. Currently, the Planning and Development Division has financial control of the NLC, but the administration control goes to the GHQ, he said, adding that to make it accountable to one institute, the ministry had called a meeting in February. The meeting would be chaired by the prime minister, he said, adding that the data of all A-1 land in possession of the armed forces would be collected by the ministry – Dailytimes