Ansar Abbasi’s report: Indeed the cat must, and will, bell itself - AsiaNet-Pakistan

Ansar Abbasi’s report: Indeed the cat must, and will, bell itself

[ 0 ] August 9, 2012 | Government Institutions | Share:

Islamabad, August 09, 2012 (PPI-OT): This is with reference to Mr. Ansar Abbasi’s report in The News (and the Urdu Daily Jang) titled, “NAB making illegal, irregular appointments in droves”, but with the far more interesting caption, “Will the cat bell itself?”

Mr. Abbasi is a highly respected, investigative journalist and we, at NAB, are honoured and highly indebted to him for focusing on us with such regularity. As he so appropriately points out, the country’s premier agency, set up under a specially empowered Ordinance; which is intended to hold accountable even the most powerful of individuals, can hardly be expected to succeed, if it violates its own laws? His focus on us, helps us stay on our toes and wary of erring.

While there are numerous methods of induction to NAB, here we intend merely to highlight article 28 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), including sub-section (f), appointments under which have been the latest to come to the attention of Mr. Abbasi. It is important to understand the completed article and its spirit, since it does indeed grant the chairman certain discretionary powers. The relevant portions of the Article are quoted below:

Article 28

a. The Chairman NAB, or an officer of the NAB duly authorized by him, may appoint such officers and staff as he may consider necessary for the efficient performance and functions of the NAB and exercise of powers under this Ordinance.

Sub-Sections (b), (c), (d), and (e) are concerned with the induction of serving officers, civil or military, on a permanent basis or on deputation.

f. The Chairman NAB may appoint advisers, consultants, and experts on payment of such fee or remuneration as he (italics added) may determine, to assist him in performing functions of the NAB and the discharge of his duties under this Ordinance.

Quite clearly, these are rather unusual discretionary powers, intended to permit him to employ individuals for a fee, on assignment basis i.e. a lump-sum payment for a particular assignment or on monthly remuneration for a period of his choice.

The mere fact that the NAO has sought to liberate Chairman NAB from the constraints of being confined to choosing from serving government employees is, obviously so that he can pick the best man for the job. So as to be able to do so, the decision of remuneration is his discretion. e.g. he wants to hire a consultant on legal matters; the individual of his choice happens to be a highly paid employee of a private firm. Quite obviously, that person will expect at least as much as he was earning in his previous assignment, if not more.

The bulk of officers employed under the article in question have been experts in their respective fields: land reforms, revenue, legal advisers, taxation etc. However, in the past one field that remained relatively ignored was Awareness and Prevention, A and P, (of crime). Under the current Chairman, the idea is to emphasize this field i.e. create awareness of crime so as to prevent it before it occurs. In the past few months, Prevention alone has saved over 10 billion rupees from being misappropriated / written off.

All officers inducted under the current Chairman are for this purpose under the A and P Division, not under “Enforcement”, or any purpose related to enforcement; which is the purview of regular employees. Their induction, therefore, has no impact on the induction and/or promotion of regular NAB employees.

Mr. Abbasi mentions SOPs for recruitment issued by a former Chairman in 2007. A little understanding of how organizations, such as NAB work, would have helped Mr. Abbasi understand that no former Chairman can formulate SOPs for his/her successor(s).

While some Chairmen have been comfortable with the “liberty of action” provided to him by the discretionary powers under Article 28(f), others, including the current Chairman are not, and have chosen their own methods to limit their discretionary authority in different ways.

The current chairman had formed a Committee in mid July to recommend to him brackets of remuneration for those employed under Article 28(f). The most obvious standard(s) for deciding an individual’s remuneration is his/her experience, background, degree of expertise and utility or output. The Committee has completed its groundwork and, within a week, remunerations will be regularized.

It is for this reason that, at least some of the recently employed individuals are not as aware of the terms of their contract as Mr. Abbasi seems to be.

Lest the use of the word “contract” initiate another controversy, by confusing employees under Article 28(f) with “Contract Employees” under government services rules, it is worth clarifying that the two are distinct from each other. Under Article 28(f) the individuals employed by NAB are indeed under contract, but they are contracted as “Service Providers”, not akin to those on contract with other government departments.

Mr. Abbasi has put the figure of such employees in NAB at 154 and named most. In the Urdu daily, he has even included their remuneration. Without quoting figures, it is worth pointing out that a large number of those employed under the article quoted were employed prior to the current Chairman’s appointment.

He has also correctly pointed out that a large number of people have gone to court against these employments. It is inalienable right of each individual to go to court; a right that cannot be disputed. Quite obviously, therefore, since the matter is sub-judice, NAB will await the Court’s decision before initiating any action to redress their grievance.

However, there are departmental rules of service for redressing grievances of employees. Without prejudice to the right of NAB employees approaching the court, NAB has sought the advice of its legal advisers as to whether there is ground here for departmental action, either before or after the decision of the court, against those employees who have gone to the court without first seeking intra-departmental redress.

Without aspersions on Mr. Abbasi’s investigative ability and zeal, the details provided to him could only have come if a little bird inside NAB “sang” to him periodically; we, at NAB wonder who? Most are aware that some years ago Mr. Abbasi became very close to a mid-senior level former army officer, now fairly highly placed. Could it be the same one or has he cultivated more birds in the NAB?

Be that as it may we, in the NAB Media Wing would be happy to assist in his future investigations.

For more information, contact:
National Accountability Bureau (NAB)
ATTATURK AVENUE G-5/2, Islamabad
Tel: 051-111-NAB-NAB (111-622-622)
Fax: 051-9214502-03
Email: chairman@nab.gov.pk, infonab@nab.gov.pk

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