Pak gives in to IMF pressure with audit of Covid expenses showing huge irregularities

After holding on for nearly six months, Pakistan gave in to the International Monetary Fund’s pressure by releasing the audit report of expenditures incurred on Covid-19, disclosing over Rs 40 billion irregularities in operations, Express Tribune reported.

The findings of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) – the constitutional body – showed misprocurement, payments to ineligible beneficiaries, cash withdrawal through fake biometrics and procurements of substandard goods by Utility Stores Corporation (USC) for consumption.

The release of the report by the Ministry of Finance is one of the five prior actions that the IMF has asked Pakistan to implement if it wants to get the $1 billion loan tranche by January next year, the report said.

The auditors attempted to scrutinise Rs 354.3 billion expenses but did not get all the records, the report showed. From the record of expenses and procurements available, the auditors have unearthed Rs 40 billion irregularities.

The auditors also caught serious issues like payment to ineligible beneficiaries like government servants, pensioners and their spouses, taxpayers and to those having poverty scores above the cut off scores approved by the federal cabinet, Express Tribune reported.

The maximum irregularities of over Rs 25 billion were found against Rs 133 billion spent under the banner of the Benazir Income Support Programme, which was equal to 19 per cent of its spending. The USC spent Rs 10 billion but the auditors raised questions on Rs 5.2 billion or 52 per cent of its spending.

The National Disaster Management Authority’s spending was Rs 22.8 billion and the auditors raised a red flag on Rs 4.8 billion or around 21 per cent of the spending.

The defence ministry also had doubtful and irregular spending to the tune of Rs 3.2 billion while other government departments had dubious expenses to the tune of Rs 1.5 billion, showed the report.

This report is based on the audit of the accounts of government agencies and departments involved in relief activities at the federal level for the year ending June 30, 2020, to the extent of expenditure related to Covid-19.

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