NAB wants to verify legislators’ assets

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau has renewed its efforts to seek a role in scrutiny of statements of assets and liabilities filed by legislators with the Election Commission and the information, including tax details, submitted by candidates along with their nomination papers.

According to sources, the bureau has written a letter to the commission asking it to provide information pertaining to the candidates who file nomination papers to contest any future elections, besides seeking previous record.

It has also asked the commission to update it on the verification of lawmakers’ academic qualifications and action taken against those possessing fake or invalid degrees.

Election Commission Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, when contacted, said: “I do not know what the contents of the letter are and can only say it will be placed before the Election Commission which will take a decision.”

He said the filing of statements had remained a cosmetic exercise but a decision had been taken to put in place a mechanism for scrutinising all documents submitted by legislators.

However, legislation will be required for the purpose. “So far we do not have the power to scrutinise the declarations of the lawmakers. How can we give to the bureau something we do not have,” he said.

Former chief of the bureau Lt-Gen Munir Hafeez had also asked the EC in 2006 to assign his organisation the officially declared role to probe the veracity of statements submitted by candidates, but the commission had replied that it was beyond its mandate and required legislation.

The accountability bureau had also sent a brief outline of proposed steps to check mushroom growth of political parties and carry out meaningful verification of the particulars submitted by candidates.

The EC in a comprehensive response sent to the bureau on Aug 31, 2007, proposed a mechanism to check the veracity of statements of accounts and empower the commission to refuse to allocate symbols to parties which did not submit the statements on a regular basis.

It said there was no provision in the law for scrutiny of the details of election expenses submitted by candidates.

The commission suggested that there should be a provision in the law for scrutiny of statements of assets and liabilities by an agency authorised to initiate proceedings against those giving incorrect information. DAWN

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