PR No. 259 Finance Minister’s Speech On Transparency In Public Sector – An Appraisal Islamabad: December 30, 2015

Sentor Perviaz Rasheed, Information Minister,

Chairman Privatization Commission,

Chairman Pakistan Telecommunications Authority,

Distinguished guests,

Media friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Assalam Alaikum and Good afternoon,

It is indeed a great pleasure and honour for me to be the Chief Guest at this seminar on “Transparency in Public Sector” – an issue which is presently of great significance. Transparency is no more a buzzword. It has become a norm of life and a basic requirement for democracy and good governance. A political government, committed to the principles of democracy, can never undermine the importance of transparency.

The world is at a cross roads and the emerging new “social contract” demands accountability from governments. Citizens all over the globe are now more aware of their rights and responsibilities and demand accountability and socially responsible behaviour not only from corporations but also from governments. The PML (N) government of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is fully cognizant of the need for completely transparent governance and service delivery.

The government has, therefore, taken concrete measures to ensure that all its decisions and operations are conducted transparently in the larger interest of good governance. The performance of the last two and a half years is in itself a proof that our government is committed to transparency and good governance at every tier. Pakistan’s ranking in the Transparency International Index, which was at 127 in 2013, slightly improved to 126 in 2014 and will, inshaAllah, further improve when the 2015 rankings are announced.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this age of information technology, independence of print and electronic media and proliferation of social media, even the worst dictatorship cannot afford to deny transparency what to talk of a representative democratic government. That is why ever since taking over the responsibility of government we ensured that the website of Ministry of Finance is up-to-date in all respects and at all times. Today every citizen of Pakistan can easily access any information regarding the economy of Pakistan by visiting the Ministry of Finance website which contains every detail including budget, economic survey and circulars issued from time to time. We began transparency from Ministry of Finance.

I may also assure here that myself and my team is always available to face the media and to respond to their incisive and piercing queries because we have nothing to hide. We are proud of our clean conscience and unblemished repute which we shall always guard.

Similarly, all the decisions of ECC of the Cabinet are taken in a most transparent manner and no fact is withheld or distorted. Same is the case with other ministries and economic institutions. The government is streamlining the existing policy making mechanism and increasing its efficiency. Currently tax and energy reforms  as well as strategic private sector participation are high on the government’s priority list.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Within the domain of taxation, the development of a key transparency cementing mechanism system is in process. The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML) will be amended soon to provide for tools for further combating tax crimes. We are strengthening the integrity management unit by identifying potential processes within the FBR that could strengthen its anti-corruption structures, including in the Directorate General of Internal Audit.

With an objective of promoting tax compliance culture in the country, the FBR has published tax directory of parliamentarians as well as general tax payers for two consecutive years (FY 2013 and FY 2014). The directories are available online on the website of FBR and can be accessed by the general public.

We are simplifying tax laws and procedures and are working with provinces to consolidate collection of provincial taxes and fees to make it easier for taxpayers to meet their obligations and at the same time eliminate opportunities for corruption by limiting the discretion of tax officials. We will also expand the IRIS (an end-to-end integrated IT system) to all business areas throughout the FBR’s network of offices to further reduce discretion in tax administration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The working of Council for Common Interests (CCI) approved a broad based strategic private sector participation program of 69 PSEs, out of which 31 public sector entities (PSEs) have been earmarked for early implementation by the Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCoP). The aim of our government is to enhance attractiveness and visibility of Pakistan as a favoured investment destination. Strategic private sector participation in any public entity is conducted in consultation with all stakeholders so that transparency as well as rules and regulations are strictly followed and adhered to. Transactions of UBL, ABL, Pakistan Petroleum Limited and HBL have been completed with complete transparency and the governance of DISCOs, three GENCOs and NTDC has been transferred to new Board of Directors and Management. All these actions have been transparent and open to public scrutiny and, by the grace of Allah, no objections have been raised.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The government recognizes the need for an independent and autonomous State Bank as well as other regulatory bodies. The amendments to the laws of various regulators are, therefore, aimed at ensuring greater transparency and autonomy. The need for monitoring and evaluation is wholeheartedly recognized and now all ministries and public sector organizations, especially independent regulatory bodies, are required to publish their reports on their websites so that these are available to the general public. Such practices are the cornerstone for transparent and accountable governments world over.

The enactment of Credit Bureau Bill has been completed. The Credit Bureaus will now be able to share information in the market about the credit history of different profit making enterprises. This will make the market more informationally efficient and increase transparency and access to finance. The law will also ensure that credit information sharing will protect the privacy rights of individuals. Similarly, the Secured Transactions Act, once enacted, will pave the way for a more reliable market function.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The best news for our future economic development is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. We are taking all necessary measures to make sure that this project remains transparent through and through. This project will not only stimulate our economy but will also, inshaAllah, be recorded in history as one of the most transparent projects ever undertaken. There will not be the slightest compromise on the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness at any stage of this project. We will ensure complete transparency of such a huge project.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite inheriting a fragile and instable economy we met all our international commitments on time. Regular and timely payments to international creditors can proudly be quoted as the seriousness of our commitment. With the grace of Almighty Allah, our international credit rating has greatly improved. Instead of a country on the brink of insolvency and economic collapse, we are now treated with respect by the international financial institutions and the warm response to our sovereign papers is only because of the confidence of the international community in our improving economy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is our commitment to transparency that we have given complete functional independence to the Auditor General of Pakistan who is carrying out his responsibilities without any pressure. Recently there were reports in some sections of the media that on assuming charge of government in 2013 we had cleared circular debt of the power sector to the tune of Rs 480 billion without any regard for rules and regulation. You will agree that we did not discourage the former Auditor General who spent two years trying to prove that the payment was malafide. After his exit, some sections of the media tried to give the impression that the government would pressurize the new Auditor General to suppress the audit of circular debt payment. However, I feel satisfied to inform you that the special audit report was not only finalized by the Auditor General but, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, it was sent to the President for causing it to be laid before the Parliament without waiting for the target date of 28th February when annual reports of the Auditor General are submitted to the President. Now the special audit report is with the Public Accounts Committee which may take it up any time for examination. I assure you that the Government will accept and implement the verdict of Public Accounts Committee in letter and spirit.

Similarly, the issue of Nandipur Power Project was also highlighted by some sections of the media as if a scam was brewing up and the Government would like to hide facts behind the veil of secrecy. However, they must have been really disappointed because the Ministry of Water and Power on its own requested the Auditor General to conduct a special study of the project. The Auditor General, true to his reputation of objectivity and neutrality, came up with a report which gives all the facts of the project. Since this was not a report on the accounts, the Auditor General transmitted it directly to the Ministry of Water and Power. The Public Accounts Committee may call for this study any time for open discussion. The Government will have no objection because we want to fulfill our commitment to transparency.

Here I may inform you that instead of creating hurdles in the working of the Auditor General, we are interested in enhancing his powers and bringing the Auditor General’s Ordinance in sync with the constitutional provisions. The Auditor General is already working on the proposed amendments in this regard.  The present government sincerely believes that the Auditor General has the constitutional mandate to report to the public representatives on the performance and transparent operations of the government and as such he will be provided all the support so that he may function independently without any pressure or restrictions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another important institution responsible for ensuring transparency in the public sector is the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). We have ensured that the Authority has complete functional autonomy. We have made the PPRA Rules applicable all over the country. The public functionaries have to observe the procedure laid down in the PPRA Rules for every procurement, whatever its volume. Now details of all procurements are available on the website of PPRA and those who do not observe PPRA Rules are liable to face disciplinary action. In view of these measures, one can assert with confidence that public procurements will now be fully transparent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am sure that from the facts which I have shared with you, it is clear that our government is not only committed to introducing transparency in the public sector but has taken concrete measures in this direction. Like I said earlier, transparency and democracy are complementary to each other and the more we strive for transparency, the more we shall be strengthening democracy. Therefore, we shall continue to consolidate transparency and accountability in the country.

In the end, I once again express my thanks and gratitude to all participants and organizers of this seminar for inviting me to this distinguished gathering. Let us all pray for the help of Allah Almighty so that we are able to achieve all that we envision for a prosperous, strong Pakistan. May we see Pakistan become an exemplary game changer and a force that cannot be ignored.

Thank you!