Effective anti-corruption strategy starts yielding results: NAB chairman

Web DeskWeb Editor

09th Jul, 2021. 04:20 pm
Effective anti-corruption strategy

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman former Justice Javed Iqbal said that after assuming the charge of the coveted post, an effective anti-corruption strategy comprising awareness, prevention and enforcement was chalked out to revamp the anti-graft watchdog.

Chairing a meeting to review the overall performance of NAB at its headquarters, he said the National Accountability Bureau’s anti-corruption strategy has proved very successful and started yielding excellent results.

During the meeting, briefing was given on the overall progress of the bureau, especially initiatives taken during the present management. The meeting was informed that during the present management, the bureau has recovered Rs533 billion directly and indirectly, which is considered as a record achievement with the overall convictions of 66 per cent.

The NAB’s anti-corruption strategy for eradication of corruption has been acknowledged by the national and international organisations such as Transparency International, World Economic Forum, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) and Mishal Pakistan.

It was informed that NAB had been established in 1999 and assigned with the responsibility of eradication of corruption and recovery of looted money from corrupt elements. Since its inception, it has recovered Rs814 billion directly and indirectly. Presently, there are 1,273 references under trial in respected accountability courts and their total worth is around Rs1.305 trillion.

As per the Gilani and Gallup surveys, 59 per cent people have shown trust in the National Accountability Bureau.

The year 2017 was the year of rejuvenation of NAB in which many initiatives were taken on the directives of the NAB chairman to pursue corruption cases on merit without any fear and favour under the enforcement strategy, which proved very successful in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Due to this reason, the present management of NAB has decided to continue the NAB’s enforcement strategy in 2021.
The NAB operations start its functioning about an alleged act of corruption and corrupt practices as defined under section 9. The process initiated with the verification of the contents of the complaint received and the applicability of the provisions of law.

This process is called complaint verification; wherein, the complainant is called for confirming the status and evidence available with him. Once it is determined that the alleged offence falls under the NAB Ordinance and available material justifies for further process, the same is processed for subsequent action.

In the second step, inquiry under section 18 of the NAB Ordinance is authorised to confirm the committal of offence and collection of evidence to identify the alleged person(s) involved. The record/evidence collection process is supplemented with the recording of statements of witnesses and accused persons.

This whole process is completed after due deliberations at each level by giving consideration to the role of the combined investigation teams (CITs) and in the regional executive board meetings.

The National Accountability Bureau has itself devised to rationalise the workload and timelines have been prescribed for efficient, effective and expeditious disposal of cases putting a maximum limit of 10 months, from complaint verification-to-inquiry-to-investigation and finally to a reference in the accountability court.

To ensure uniformity and standardisation, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for investigation officers in vogue were reviewed and revised to benefit from the experience and collective wisdom of senior supervisory officers, a system of combined investigation team comprising director, additional director, investigation officer and a senior legal counsel has been put in place.

This is not only lending quality to the work but also ensures that no single individual can influence the proceedings. The implementation of enforcement measures and prosecution matters are being monitored by the NAB through daily, weekly and monthly reports and inspections.

Once a criminal case is established and the accused is unable to return the ill-gotten/pecuniary resources, the inquiry is converted into investigation under section 18 (C) to finalise the collection of evidence for filing of reference in the respective accountability court and to prosecute him with the objective of conviction and confiscation of proceeds of crime under Section 16 (a) of the NAB Ordinance, 1999.

During the investigation, the accused is provided an opportunity to confront the evidence collected. The accused has the option of plea bargain at this stage to return the illegal gain to avoid trials and imprisonment. In any case the disposal of this stage is referred to the court for final approval under Section 25 (B) of the NAB Ordinance, 1999.

The enforcement strategy of the NAB starts with the soft initiative of fact-finding without blaming any person for an alleged act of corruption and corrupt practices. The process moves with simple explanations from the complainant to clarify the charges against the accused and to confirm his position with the material evidence, if any.

During inquiry, the collection of evidence vis-a-vis the allegations are verified with the explanations given by the accused person and statements recorded from the witnesses.

If the stated version of the accused is found implausible, the matter moves for an option of accepting guilt and offering for voluntary return of assets or gain acquired as a consequence of an offence committed under the NAB Ordinance.

The tougher stage approached when after finalisation of investigation the trial proceedings initiated and the accused persons are facing for charges of corruption and corrupt practices framed by the accountability court and where possible conviction, which may extend to 14 years rigorous imprisonment with fine and or confiscation of assets and properties in the name of accused or his family members.

The operational arms of the NAB are its regional bureaus, which are involved in field operations, i.e., conduct of complaint verifications, inquiries, investigations, and prosecution of cases at trial and appellate stages.

The NAB headquarters operations and prosecution divisions are providing all support for smooth conduct of operational activities in accordance with the law and the standard operating procedures.

The operational methodology is the guiding principles of the NAB’s anti-corruption strategy, which provides for effective monitoring and accountability within the organisation. The operational decision making is passed through a consultative process, called the Executive Board Meetings participated by the senior officers at the NAB headquarters and the NAB’s regional bureaus via video links.

The matters concerning placement on the Exit Control List (ECL), issuance of Red Notices against absconding accused, requests for mutual legal assistance from foreign jurisdictions and extradition of fugitives from law are done as per the law.

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