The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) on Monday shared important findings and recommendations pertaining to the audit of the COVID-19 response fund worth $1.4bn with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) team upon request.

Earlier in February and March of 2020, IMF had provided $1.4bn Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to Pakistan to aid in fighting Covid-19. IMF requested input from Pakistan’s constitutional auditors regarding the usage of emergency financial support. The funds allowed authorities to launch the support-cum-stimulus package worth Rs1.24tr. A portion of that package remains to be utilized.

The audit is part of the validation process of the country’s financial and economic data in the wake of discussions on the resumption of the $6bn programme. This occurred on the day Shaukat Tarin was re-designated as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue.

IMF’s Resident Representative for Pakistan, Teresa Daban Sanchez held a meeting with AGP Mohammad Ajmal Gondal and discussed the credibility of the usage of $1.4bn RFI as well as allocations and utilisations of over Rs1.24 trillion Covid-19 response of the government.

As per the statement issued by the AGP office, the IMF resident representative had requested the meeting. Ms. Sanchez was assisted by an economist while the AGP was accompanied by Deputy Auditor General Maqbool Ahmed Gondal and Director General Policy Tafakhar Ali Asadi.

The meeting continued after last week’s policy-level meetings held between the IMF and an economic team from Pakistan led by then finance minister Shaukat Tarin.

Tarin had reported on Friday that the government had shared key statistics with the IMF and were awaiting a response from them once they had validated the data by October 19.

Tarin added, “They said they are validating the numbers we shared with them and will get back to us. We told them that we welcome the review.”

While discussing the RFI, Ms Sanchez offered to provide training of the personnel of the AGP department by the IMF with regards to budgeting, financing, execution and reporting. The AGP expressed appreciation for the offer and briefed the IMF team on the mandate of the constitutional body, the process of accountability and the timelines of audit reports. Parliamentary oversight and role of the Public Accounts Committee and procedure of the public hearing on audit reports, “especially the audit of Covid-19 expenditures” were also explained to the IMF delegation.

The AGP’s director-general explained the coverage of Covid-related expenditure in the report and the audit of expenditure of Utility Stores Corporation’s (USC) subsidies on food items during the pandemic to the IMF. The statement added, “The IMF representatives appreciated the recommendations part of the report.”

According to reports, IMF team was provided with the audit report on the entire spectrum of Covid-related expenditures, including those relating to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the federal government, the Ministry of Finance, Benazir Income Support Programme, USC, and all other departments and organisations involved in the spending process.

It was communicated to the IMF team that the report contained serious shortcomings regarding the preparedness, systematic issues, warehousing of various goods and supplies, and their proper accounting procedures as well as provided recommendations to address and improve those shortcomings.

The IMF delegation expressed appreciation for the suggestions in the reports, inquired about the way forward and how the issues would be settled. The team was communicated that the auditors had raised various audit objections which had been discussed with the relevant departments through departmental audit committees and outstanding audit paras were made part of the final report and sent to the president who signed and referred the final report to the Public Accounts Committee.

The IMF delegation was further explained that the PAC of parliament would now hold follow-up public hearings on the audit paras, listen to the views of the stakeholders and take the appropriate decisions as needed.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
The Desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk.

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