Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Senator Dr Sania Nishtar has rejected the allegations of irregularities in the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.
“It is unfortunate that the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has challenged the authority of the highest forum like the federal cabinet,” she said in an interaction with the media on Monday regarding special audit report pertaining to the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme prepared by the AGP.
The SAPM said the objections raised by the AGP office were adequately answered and the audit authorities had taken a stand that they were satisfied with the replies submitted in that regard.
She lamented that the AGP has included audit paragraphs in the audit report; nevertheless, the observations made were technical and advisory in nature.
“The objections raised do not point to any misappropriation, corruption or irregularities in the social security programme” she maintained.
She said that the audit objections would now be addressed in the Department Accounts Committee (DAC) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC). “After the post-audit of the programme, the social security scheme will be given clearance,” she said, dismissing the idea that the audit report was kept confidential until the IMF pressured the government to bring it to the fore.
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The SAPM said that the report contains ten audit observations about the Ehsaas programme and it has already been tabled in parliament. She said that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme was completed under very unusual circumstances in the times of the Covid pandemic.
The programme was launched within 10 days of its first contemplation. Explaining the ten observations of the audit report, Dr Sania Nishtar said that in one of the audit observation it was maintained that out of the 17 million registered beneficiaries, 1.32 million people did not come to collect cash. The audit teams were told that many people registered themselves dozens of times due to which they were screened and not paid and their refunds were sent to the banks and details as such were reported to the audit authorities.
Another objection referred to government employees and pensioners in the programme. The audit recommended data updates of the BISP, Nadra, PIA, PTCL, EOBI, CGA, MAG and other departments. Dr Nishtar further said that as far as the benefit of Ehsaas Emergency Cash for tax filers and Zakat recipients was concerned, the decision was taken by the federal cabinet.
Regarding the 7th and 8th objections of the audit, Nishtar said that it was the decision of the BISP board regarding the poverty score. Sania said the BISP’s poverty score in the survey was 16.17 but the Emergency Cash was raised to 37 because it had to provide assistance to more people who were directly affected by the corona virus economically.
She said that cyberattacks on our system were frequent and cases were handed over to the FIA in this regard. “Also, 11 cases of Ehsaas Emergency Cash have been handed over to FIA.”