PESHAWAR, Aug 20: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Tuesday made public the salient features of the proposed Ehtesab Commission, including wide-ranging powers to eliminate corruption and corrupt practices from the public sector in the province.
The proposed accountability body is to be set up through an ordinance to be promulgated by the governor, while the government has already announced Rs200 million for its operationalisation until Sept 15.
Provincial information minister Shah Farman told a news conference here that there was a need for an independent and autonomous accountability body at the provincial level as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the people were not satisfied with the performance of the existing government institutions.
“The Ehtesab Commission will be fully autonomous and there will be no role of executive in hiring and firing at it. The proposed body can even order the arrest of the chief minister and ministers,” he claimed. Article continues after ad
However, the minister was short of words when asked what period the accountability process would cover in the province.
He said there would be Special Ehtesab Courts to conduct hearing into cases on day-to-day basis and that proceeding in any case could be adjourned for seven days only.
Mr Farman said there would be ‘one-line’ budget to ensure the autonomy of the commission, which would be free from any political interference.
He said initially, a 10-member legislative committee having equal representation from the treasury and opposition benches would select seven members of the search and scrutiny committee, who would nominate five Ehtesab Commissioners. The minister said the legislative committee could reject a nominated Ehtesab Commissioner proposed by the search committee with by 3/4th majority vote.
He said strict timelines had been prescribed to ensure that appointment process and functioning of the Ehtesab Commission was not sabotaged due to delays and secretary provincial assembly would serve as secretary to the legislative committee.
Mr Farman said members of the search and scrutiny committee would hold domiciles of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while every member would declare his assets as per law.
He said the search and scrutiny committee would nominate one of the Ehtesab Commissioners as Chief Ehtesab Commissioner to the Legislative Committee on Governance and Accountability.
“As for the education qualification, an Ehtesab Commissioner should be a bachelor’s degree holder; the minimum age is at least 45 years old and at most 65 years old during the year of selection, and he should be competent, honest and is of good repute,” he said.
The minister said the commissioners would devise strategy and policy for elimination of corruption; oversee policy implementation and operation of the Directorate General of Ehtesab Commission.
“They (commissioners) would approve the annual budget of the Commission and rules and regulations. The director general would be appointed for a period of four years which would not be extendable. He would be a retired government servant in Grade-21 or Grade-22. On completion of his tenure he shall not hold any public office for five years,” he said.
The official document on the proposed Ehtesab Commission said the commissioners would be empowered to appoint and remove director general and prosecutors of the commission and would also look into the allegations of corruption charges of employees of the Directorate General of the Ehtesab Commission, including the director general.
Under the proposed law, the cognisance of an offence could be taken by the director general of the commission or duly authorised officer of the commission.
It provides that trial of an offence should be completed within two months.
Unlike the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, the proposed law envisages that there would be no plea bargain with an accused persons by the Ehtesab commission and only the trial judge would be allowed to consider, while sentencing that full recovery of the assets accumulated through illegal means along with interest has been effected due to cooperation of the convict and consequently leniency may be shown in awarding imprisonment.
The offence of corrupt practices will be punishable up to 14 years of presentment with fine up to one million rupees and confiscation of property.