ECP Committee finds misdeeds in PTI records

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Observes deviations in figures

—Rises several questions over PTI accounts record

By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: The Scrutiny Committee formed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to probe the foreign funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has found irregularities in the audit reports submitted by the ruling party.

In its report submitted to the election watchdog on Tuesday, the committee said, “as per the opinion of the Chartered Accountant Firms, the statement of Account fairly presents, in all material respects [sic], the cash receipt of PTI for each year mentioned in the table above [present in the report], on the basis of accounting described by the firm in its audit report. However, during the course scrutiny, the committee observed deviations in figures as the same do not reconcile with the bank statements.”

During these five years, the Chartered Accountant (CA) Firms issued the same text of audit report, the report said, adding that the PTI changed its firm last year.

“[The] PTI changed its Chartered Accountant Firm in last year and employed the same firm which had issued the certificate in the first year of the above table. However, as reported the same text of audit report was issued to [the PTI] Central Executive Committee (CEC),” the report added.

It also pointed out that the audit report submitted to the CEC deviated from the accounting standards as “no date has reflected” by the CA firm.

“No date has been reflected by the Chartered Accountant firm in its audit report issued to CEC in 2012-13, which is a material deviation from accounting standards. Hence the date has been reflected in the above table as ‘Nil’,” it added.

It stated, “the petitioner provided documents pertaining to the receipt of funds through fundraising, donations and contributions by [the] PTI from [the] USA and other countries. [E]specially, the fundraising, which was recorded in FARA documents annexed by the petitioner with his complaint and subsequently downloaded by the committee from FARA website were examined in detail being a [piece of] material evidence on fundraising activity by [the] PTI in the USA.”

During the hearing of the foreign funding case at the ECP earlier today, PTI leader and State Minister for Information Farrukh Habib urged the election watchdog to “complete scrutiny of [the] PPP and PML-N accounts” at the earliest.

The ECP, however, asked the minister whether the hearing underway was regarding the PML-N and PPP accounts. The three-member bench headed by the chief election commissioner (CEC) told him to submit a separate petition if he wanted to.

CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja, however, directed the scrutiny committee to submit a report on the progress made regarding the accounts of the PPP and PML-N within 10 days.

During the hearing, counsel Ahmed Hassan requested the ECP to provide the petitioner with a copy of the scrutiny report and related material. The PTI counsel objected to his request, saying that the report was only meant for the concerned parties.

An ECP member said that the hearing was not ‘in-camera’. PTI lawyer Shah Khawar responded that the commission can make the report public after the submission of the ruling party’s comment on it.

“The report should be kept confidential till then,” he added. He urged the ECP to wait till the scrutiny of other political parties is completed and the peruse the reports together.

“How can we examine all the reports together?” the CEC retorted and directed the copies of the report to be shared with the concerned parties in the case.

Akbar S Babar’s counsel Ahmed Hasan said that his client was not even provided with the data collected and compiled by the ECP itself. “Let us go through the report and then feel free to make it public,” said the PTI lawyer.

It is a common practice that relevant case records are public, but in this case, the record was kept confidential at the behest of the defendant, Babar’s counsel added.

PTI lawyer Shah Khawar said the ECP should give an order to keep the report secret. At this, the ECP bench said how can the commission give such an order during a public hearing of the case.

CEC Raja said there was a consensus in the ECP that there was no reason to keep the report confidential. He adjourned the case for a week, but at the request of the PTI counsel, the hearing was postponed for 15 days.

The foreign funding case against PTI continues to linger before the ECP since November 2014 when it was filed by the party’s founding member Akbar S Babar.

Babar alleged serious financial irregularities in the ruling party’s accounts, including illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.