Saturday Jul 25, 2020
The government's proposed amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance contain clauses which seek to do away with the non-extendability of the appointment of the anti-graft body's chairman, deputy chairman and the prosecutor general, it emerged on Saturday.
According to a document of the proposed amendments, a copy of which is available with Geo News, "in clause (i) of sub-section (b) of Section 6, the word non-extendable shall be omitted". This section pertains to the appointment of the NAB chairman.
Similarly, the removal of the word "non-extendable" has also been proposed in Sections 7 and 8, which pertain to the appointments of the NAB deputy chairman and the prosecutor general of accountability, respectively.
The newly drafted law would be tabled before the 24-member parliamentary committee on Monday (July 27) where all parliamentary parties would discuss the amendments, an official familiar with the development told Geo News.
The amendments are to be called the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2020, and propose changes which extend "to the whole of Pakistan and shall apply to all persons, including those persons who are or have been in the service of Pakistan, except in respect of persons and transactions specified in sub-section (2)".
The proposed amendments state that the provisions shall not apply to "matters pertaining to Federal or Provincial taxation, levies or imposts".
When the proposed law comes into effect, all inquiries and investigations on taxation, levies and imposts shall fall within the purview of the relevant institutions which administer the laws pertaining to the same.
Trials will also be transferred from accountability courts to criminal courts which deal with such offences.
The newly proposed law further states that the ordinance shall not apply to any person who is not directly or indirectly connected with a public office holder – except offences under clauses (ix), (x) and (xi) of sub-section (a) of Section 9.
Moreover, with regard to procedural lapses in any government project or scheme, no person will be subjected to any action under the new ordinance “unless it is shown that the holder of public office, his dependents or benamidars have benefitted by gaining any material benefit, and there is evidence to corroborate the acquiring of such benefit”.
Similarly, in matters pertaining to the rendition of any advice, opinion or report, no action under the ordinance will be taken against a public officeholder unless it can be demonstrated that they he, his dependents or benamidars have directly benefited and proof of the same is provided.
In cases pertaining to assets of a public officeholder beyond known sources of income, the valuation of immovable properties shall be done under the rate prescribed by the District Collector or the Federal Board of Revenue, whichever is higher. “No evidence contrary to the latter shall be admissible,” read the draft amendment.
The proposed amendments also seek to expand the definition of what constitutes “misuse of public authority” in Section 9, clause (vi) to include the explanation that nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority unless there is “corroborative evidence of any material benefit drawn” by the public officeholder, his dependents or benamidars relating to the transaction.
Furthermore, in Section 9, a new clause (xiii) shall be inserted which reads: “an act done in good faith and in discharge of duties and performance of official functions shall not, unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any material benefit from that act, constitute an offence under this clause”.
Additionally, in Section 16, which pertains to the trials held under the ordinance and the disposal of cases under thirty days, a new sub-section (e) will be added, namely:
“The Court shall provide to the accused copies of the Reference along with all the documents attached to the Reference. The accused shall within fourteen days of the receipt of the documents identify to the Court the documents which the accused admits, which shall not require any proof.”
With additional reporting by Zahid Gishkori in Islamabad.