National Accountability Bureau chief raises graft estimate to Rs13bn -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

National Accountability Bureau chief raises graft estimate to Rs13bn

By: Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau chief dismissed the government’s reaction over his statement about the level of corruption in the country on Thursday, raising the estimate to Rs13 billion a day, or Rs5 trillion a year. Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari had only recently put the losses at Rs7bn per day.

The NAB chief made light of the furore in the federal cabinet, which had on Wednesday showed its anger over his statement, and made public the bureau’s position paper at a press conference to substantiate his claim, instead of presenting it before the cabinet’s four-member committee.

“The country is losing Rs7bn per day through tax evasion and another Rs6bn to Rs7bn to direct corruption,” he claimed. Corruption was being committed both at the federal and provincial levels, he said.

The NAB chairman said the figures were based on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (TI), government and regulators’ reports, proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, tax collection departments’ input and NAB’s assessment of mega projects.

The media was expecting an exhaustive report on corruption, but only a two-and-a-half page position paper was shared. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira had said on Wednesday that the NAB chairman should have presented details to the cabinet instead of going public with the amount.

In reply to a question if such a statement given at a time when elections were approaching might be part of an agenda to provide the ground to a caretaker set-up to prolong its tenure, Mr Bokhari said: “I am not working on any specific agenda but the agenda of Pakistan.”

Giving a breakdown of his claim of Rs4-5tn corruption in a year, the NAB chairman said the tax-to-GDP ratio stood at nine per cent, but this could easily be enhanced to 18 per cent and thus the country was losing Rs2,500bn to Rs3,000bn annually, or Rs7bn daily, in evasion.

He said Rs300-350bn annual loss had been estimated by the PAC on the basis of audit objections. Losses in state enterprises due to incompetence amounted to Rs350bn per year and NAB’s assessment of direct losses in mega projects was also Rs350bn, he said.

NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal ruled out the possibility of overlapping in the figures of different government organisations.

The chairman said indirect losses were caused by untaxed agriculture‚ revenue department’s corruption‚ land grabbing and encroachment‚ loan default‚ overstaffing‚ ghost employment‚ wealth tax losses and duty drawbacks, energy sector losses due to loadshedding, delay in mega projects, administrative cost, foreign exchange outflow and irregularities in the banking sector.

Blaming legislators and the bureaucracy for corruption, he said: “There are only two pillars, and not three, of the state now in the country – one consists of legislators and executives and the other is judiciary. The legislators appoint the executives of their choice and this is happening at the federal as well as provincial levels. I said three months ago that the country was losing a huge amount to corruption on a daily basis.

“The fact that I’m holding the fourth press conference in two months shows that the bureau is determined to root out corruption.” He said billions of rupees could be generated for the exchequer through taxes by plugging loopholes in the system and eliminating malpractice.