Federal secretaries prepare draft for amendments to NAB laws

Rana Ghulam Qadir
Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: The federal secretaries have prepared an amended draft for National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) law that would soon be presented before the prime minister for approval.

The amendment recommends that NAB's law be applied to over Rs500 million corruption cases, suggesting that rather than giving a role to the president and NAB chairman for appointment of bureau's prosecutor general, the authority should be given to the federal government. 

It also suggested to retract NAB chairman's authority to appoint bureau officer as temporary prosecutor general, adding that the federal government should be authorised for such an appointment instead.

The amendment also recommended to remove NAB's authority to call government officials and reduce remanding period up to 14 days instead of 90 days. It said the provincial high courts should resolve appeals against the final decisions within 10 days rather than 30 days. It also proposed to the NAB chairman to prepare a mechanism against the complaints.

The amendment also advised the NAB chairman to present a quarterly report to the federal government regarding the complaints, adding that bureau's officials should be barred from media or issuing any statement until the reference would have been filed. It also devised a mechanism for the NAB to make the bureaucrats accountable.

The federal secretaries also suggested to constitute a scrutiny committee, consisting of at least six members and said NAB could not take any action against any bureaucrat without approval of that committee. 

It is said that the head of the scrutiny committee should be the chairman NAB, while it should include secretary cabinet division, secretary establishment division, chairman FBR, chairman SECP, a law official, secretary of concerned division and chief secretary of the concerned province.

A bureaucrat cannot be arrested without the approval of the scrutiny committee nor could an investigation be initiated. The approval of the committee is needed to take action against the bureaucrats. 

It is pertinent to mention that the meeting of the secretaries committee was held on October 10, 2019, in which the meeting was told that the NAB was a hurdle against good governance and service delivery and the PTI government could not pursue its agenda if NAB's strategies were implemented.

The meeting was told that the government officials were called and threatened without any solid proof. The top bureaucracy had asked assurance over justified decisions and categorically rejected the summons and arrest of bureaucrats over minor issues.

The secretary committee, the biggest forum of bureaucrats, expressed their grave concern over the NAB's action in October 10, 2019 meeting. It said insult of dignified civil servants was against good governance and could not be acceptable. The committee said the incumbent government reached the power corridors with an agenda to supremacy of law and economic equality.

The secretary committee said the current government wanted a welfare state that respects merit and ensures transparency but to transform the financial equilibrium, the bureaucracy needs to be ready to work on modern and dynamic lines. 

It declared that the bureaucracy wants an amicable environment to take decisions, adding that the NAB's actions would finally harm the interests of the people.

The meeting was told that the decisions of the bureaucracy were being presented as criminal acts that could only hurt the decision making and ultimately delay the public interest projects. 

It said it is unacceptable to issue summons and arrest bureaucrats by the NAB officers, adding that the accountability process should be transparent. The federal bureaucrats said it is time to take action and give legal protection through amending the law rather verbal assurances.

It suggested to constitute a scrutiny committee to create a mechanism prior to sending the case to the NAB.

Originally published in The News