–Ministers concerned over Bureau’s ‘unstructured’ investigations, say it ‘lacks the capacity to properly investigate white-collar crimes’
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet is likely to approve amendments in the law pertaining to National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) powers in its next meeting.
Sources privy to the specifics of the federal cabinet meeting held near the end of August said that cabinet members expressed concerns over NAB’s powers.
Terming NAB’s investigations as “haphazard and unstructured”, they said that the bureau “lacked the capacity to properly investigate white-collar crimes” as it had unnecessarily involved itself with the disputes of political parties, thus opening the door for misuse of power, sources added.
Sources further said that cabinet members told the meeting that the reforms should enable the anti-corruption watchdog to improve its performance instead of facilitating any particular segment of society.
On August 31, the Ministry of Law and Justice drafted new laws to amend the rules of the NAB, which, if approved, would exempt private citizens from NAB’s prosecution.
According to the details, the amendment proposed would give the accountability courts the authority to decide the bail pleas. NAB law would not apply to a person if he is not a public office holder.
“The application of the NAB laws may not be extended in respect of a private person or entity, who/which is directly and indirectly unconnected with a holder of public office,” reads the third proposed amendment to the law,” the draft read.
The draft had recommended that NAB should not take action against government employees on departmental defects, rather there should be proceedings against employees who have evidence to benefit from the defects. NAB would prosecute over 50 million corruption cases and scandals.
“NAB shall not take cognizance of offences based on procedural lapses” unless there is evidence corroborating that the “officer has materially benefited from such a decision or lapse”, the proposed amendment read.
The proposed amendment also referred to the existing law on misuse of authority stating that the act would only be used against a government employee if there was an underlying criminal intent or if their assets had grown illegally or unjustifiably.
The draft amended by the Ministry of Law and Justice had stated that a committee constituted by the Prime Minister Imran Khan would approve the voluntary return of looted money under the new NAB rules. Plea bargains and voluntary return of looted money would hold the accused ineligible for public office for 10 years. It had also been suggested to develop guidelines for the acceptance of plea bargain.
“(i) The voluntary return may be approved by a committee formed by the prime minister. (ii)Guidelines to be formed for entertaining a request for voluntary returns and plea bargains. (iii)The acceptance of a plea bargain and voluntary return may see the public office holder disqualified to hold office or employment for a period of 10 years or any other period,” the draft read, adding that a threshold of Rs500 million may be introduced.
In addition, if the NAB investigation is not completed within three months, the arrested public servant will be entitled to bail. NAB will not be able to reopen the case once it has been investigated. “If a civil servant was arrested then there would be 45 days remand instead of 90 days”, the draft proposed.
To remove the power of NAB from the stock market and tax issues was also proposed along with the authority to freeze the assets of public servants. The property of a government employee can be frozen only after a court sentence and their valuation would depend on the District Collector rate or the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) rate.