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ETPB maintaining ‘unauthorised’ dollar account, auditors say

ETPB maintaining ‘unauthorised’ dollar account, auditors say

ISLAMABAD: The auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) has unearthed an unauthorised foreign currency account maintained by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) – the body that manages the affairs of charitable, religious and educational trusts and institutions that were left behind during partition.

In their report on the affairs of the board, auditors also pointed out gross irregularities amounting to nearly Rs10 billion among dozens of other irregularities, and have recommended that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) pursue cases against those found responsible for the financial mismanagement.

Auditors said that despite there being no such provision in the law, EPTB “is maintaining a dollar account... wherein an amount of $50,000 [was] lying [as of] June 30, 2015”, and have recommended that the account be closed.

When asked for an explanation, EPTB told auditors that the account was opened in 2007 and was currently frozen. The audit has raised major objections over the allotment and encroachment of ETPB land.

AGP’s report reveals nearly Rs10bn in irregularities; encroachment of over 3,000 acres of evacuee land

Auditors say the board failed to properly manage a huge tract of land, while huge sums have been found to be misappropriated and mishandled by the board officials.

The AGP report revealed that over 3,015 acres of land, which is under the custody of ETPB, has been encroached across the country. The report also states that ETPB officers did not cooperate with auditors in probing the matter.

“The value of the land could not be determined as the market price was not reported by the field offices,” the report said.

However, one of the most serious issues raised in the report were inappropriate investments made by the ETPB, including a loss-making deal worth Rs1.93 billion with Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Lahore.

The issue related to a decision made by the ETPB in 2007, where a deal was offered to the DHA Lahore, which was later revised in 2009. However, the deal was struck down by the apex court after it took suo motu action in 2011. However, ETPB has failed to abide by the Supreme Court decision and has yet to take up the matter with DHA.

Among other doubtful financial venture identified by auditors was a Rs1.10 billion investment in the stock market, and the report stated that ETPB had to resort to registering an FIR for the recovery of the original files of the investment, which were in the custody of an officer who had been transferred from Lahore to Sukkur.

ETPB officers also made another loss-making deal with a builder and an investment company in real estate developed by DHA Islamabad, but the investments amounting to Rs2.97 billion are still stuck up.

The Supreme Court had given a ruling in favour of ETPB and the AGP report recommends that the board should move ahead to recover the invested amount plus interest, as per the decree of the court.

Auditors also said the board had failed to recover Rs761.22 million in rent from its various properties.

Another managerial flaw by the ETPB management was the establishment of the Pakistan Model Institutions Foundation and the appointment of 766 employees there, for which no record was presented to the AGP.

Auditors also revealed that board officials hindered their work and recommended action against those responsible. The AGP has recommended that the ETPB management needed to ensure the effectiveness of its internal controls and monitoring mechanisms.

It has been suggested that the investments by ETPB should be made with the approval of federal government, while its assets should be rented out through open competition.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2017

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