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SC orders audit of Defence Housing Authority accounts

SC orders audit of Defence Housing Authority accounts

ISLAMABAD: Declaring that a claim by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Lahore, that their accounts could not be scrutinised was “unjustified”, the Supreme Court ordered the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) on Tuesday to proceed with an audit of their accounts.

“We had already held in one of our previous judgments (in the Hamid Mir case) that the immunity being claimed by certain organisations is unjustified in the light of Article 170(2) of the Constitution,” said a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Jawwad S. Khawaja.

The order was issued days after the Supreme Court took exception to the DHA’s claims of immunity from an audit of their accounts by the auditor general under Article 170 of the Constitution. The court had expressed displeasure when it was told that DHA’s accounts had never been audited.

At the last hearing on Sept 2, the bench had observed that after the 18th amendment, it was now the responsibility of the AGP to audit the accounts of all statutory institutions.

On Tuesday, AGP Rana Asad Amin appeared before the court and said that his office had repeatedly informed DHA, Lahore that their accounts were to be audited, but said that the authority was resisting on the grounds that there were ambiguities in the law.

The AGP also stated that earlier, 19 government organisations had been resisting an official audit of their accounts. However, eight of them have now agreed that they are subject to a government audit.

The AGP agreed that the Supreme Court had already settled the nature and scope of Article 170 of the Constitution in the Hamid Mir case by stating that all bodies and organisations established by the federal government will be subject to an audit by the AGP.

Advocate Shahzeb Masood, appearing on behalf of DHA, Lahore, argued that the authority did not get any government grant though it regularly paid income tax and said that the accounts of DHA were audited by a renowned accountancy firm.

He explained that DHA had never made any submission that even remotely suggested that the authority was exempt from the scope of Article 170(2) of the Constitution, but were claiming exemption on the grounds that a similar matter (immunity being claimed by other government organisations) was sub judice and pending adjudication before the court, i.e. the Hamid Mir case.

But the court observed that the head of DHA was a serving military officer, who drew his salary from the government’s allocated defence budget, and held that the authority’s stance was not in accordance with the Constitution.

The court ordered that the AGP was the constitutional body to proceed with an audit of the authority’s finances and directed the parties to provide the AGP’s office with their complete records.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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