By Muhammad Bilal –
The audit report for year 2014-15 reveals that the Election Commission of Pakistan got printed 181.743 million ballot papers against the total eligible voters of 169.953 million during general elections 2013
Many people believe that the 3-judge inquiry commission has settled the issue of May 11 polls rigging once for all. The boot is on the other leg.There exist so many controversies that still haunt the credibility of 2013 general elections.
The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has raised some serious questions about printing of excess ballot papers and purchase of magnetized ink for May 11 elections.
The audit report for year 2014-15, which is available with Pique, reveals that the Election Commission of Pakistan got printed 181.743 million ballot papers against the total eligible voters of 169.953 million during general elections without ‘definite requirements’ resulting into Rs34.192 million ‘unjustified expenditure’.
The report shows that 11.790 million additional ballot papers were printed; 5.922 million for National Assembly constituencies and 5.868 million for the constituencies of all provincial assemblies.
The audit authorities have observed that 11.790 million excess ballot papers were got printed at Rs2.90 per ballot paper amounting to Rs34.192 million. The report says there was no hard and fast rule for printing of excess ballot papers as percentage of excess printing varied from 2.73 percent to 11.45 percent for each province.
The report further says that the ECP management didn’t provide details of provision of ballot papers constituency-wise as well as polling station-wise against registered voters.
The audit has taken a view that ballot papers were printed without definite requirements that resulted in excess expenditure of Rs34.192 million. During the audit, the ECP management replied that a tentative figure was communicated to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press on the basis of total number of registered votes well before time so that the PCP could make necessary arrangements for paper and other materials.
The ECP management further added that since the ballot papers were to be numbered and bound in a book of one hundred, therefore the requirement of ballot papers for a constituency was rounded off to the next hundred which caused escalation in printing of ballot papers.
The audit was informed that about 4.54 million ballot papers were re-printed due to court cases and remaining were printed due to rounding off the fractional figure to the next hundred for making a complete book.
Auditor General of Pakistan refused to accept the ECP reply, saying no documentary evidence was provided to support the stance. AGP’s report reveals that income tax worth Rs5.870 million was not deducted at source during purchase of magnetized and indelible ink.
The management of the Election Commission paid an amount of Rs167.707 million to Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR), Karachi for purchase of magnetized and indelible ink pads for May 11, 2013 elections as well as by-elections held on August 22, 2013.
The audit has observed that income tax amounting to Rs5.870 million was not deducted at source. The failure to deduct income tax at source deprived the government of its due revenue.
The ECP management replied to audit authorities that PCSIR was exempted from all kinds of taxes and had been allotted a free tax number. But the audit authorities didn’t accept the reply, saying tax exemption certificate from the Commissioner, Income Tax was not provided.
The Auditor General of Pakistan has recommended that the amount may be recovered and deposited into the government treasury. The printing of excess ballot papers and use of magnetized ink also came under discussion during the inquiry commission hearing. It’s for the very first time that another constitutional body Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has pointed finger on these issues.
The audit report is to be presented before the parliament in coming few weeks.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad