ACE determined to go after big fish of Punjab’s bureaucracy


–Anti-Corruption Establishment gains confidence to tackle political influence following former CM Shehbaz’s arrest

–ACE DG gives three-month deadline to staff to get hold of corrupt bureaucrats

LAHORE: After the arrest of former Punjab chief minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), following the footsteps of the National Accountancy Bureau (NAB), is gearing up to tighten the noose around corrupt bureaucrats of the province, Pakistan Today has learnt.

According to sources, ACE has reopened cases of bureaucrats, against whom complaints were received but not proceeded with. They further said that apart from the slow pace of work of ACE, one of the main reasons for not getting hold of the influential and corrupt bureaucrats was the political backing they had. “During Shehbaz’s tenure as the chief minister, ACE was unable to apprehend any civil servants as most of them had close terms with the provincial chief executive.”

Sources quoted the example of former Excise, Taxation & Narcotics Control Department (ET&NC) secretary Ahmad Bilal and said that he misused his authority and used undue tactics to oblige the blue-eyed staff working under him. He encouraged corruption in the department whereas former ET&NC minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman was aware of the goings on and had warned the secretary time and again.

Similarly, several complaints against other corrupt but influential bureaucrats were received by ACE but it could not do anything due to their political backing and the cases were shelved.

“Hussnain Asghar, the new ACE director general, in his maiden meeting directed the staff to get hold of the corrupt giants of the province as there were no cases against the top notch and known corrupt officials whereas the inquiries against a few junior officers had proven embezzlement of only a couple of millions,” they added.

Sources informed this scribe that the ACE DG had given a deadline of three months to his staff and said that anyone who was not abiding by the directions would be sent back to the parent department.

“Most of the officers working in ACE are taken on deputation from other departments that include police, administrative units, corporations and other government departments while this mechanism has hindered the working and efficiency of the ACE.”

“Anyone on deputation would never go after their senior officials as they fear to face them once they are repatriated,” sources said further and added that, however, after Shehbaz’s arrest, ACE had gained the courage to get hold of other bureaucrats.

Sources told Pakistan Today that ACE designed its policies following the inclination of the chief minister whereas in the past the trail of any bureaucrat was not encouraged and so no action was taken upon any complaints. “The permission for the investigation of senior officers in grade 19 and above is given by the chief minister and if that is not allowed then ACE has no way to investigate.”

A civil servant from Punjab Secretariat, seeking anonymity, said that after Shehbaz’s arrest, the blue-eyed bureaucrats of PML-N feared getting caught and the heads of 56 public companies of the province were already digging out files to save themselves. “Several other bureaucrats are also going through the records again,” added the officer.

ACE spokesperson Sadia Ijaz, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that the prime minister’s zero-tolerance policy against corruption would be followed by ACE.

“We received such instructions from the government in the past as well but now we foresee change. If the bureaucrats are to be brought to justice then political influence needs to be put an end to. ACE will take all necessary steps for the culmination of corruption.”

She also said that some cases of influential officers were already being investigated.