ISLAMABAD: In a meeting held to discuss the overlapping powers and rules of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a Senate committee suggested there should be one specialised body to deal with corruption cases.
On Wednesday, the committee was told about an exercise that was initiated in 2004 in which two anti-corruption wings of the FIA were placed under NAB along with 5,000 cases.
“However, over the next four years, NAB’s efficiency deteriorated and the amounts of money being investigated in corruption cases was too little, sometimes just thousands of rupees,” said NAB Director-General Operations Syed Khalid Iqbal.
In 2008, the then prime minister had in a cabinet meeting reversed the decision and the two wings were returned to the FIA, the DG said.
“In December of 2015, the superior judiciary also directed that NAB will only deal with corruption cases, and only ones where it was possible to recover money,” Mr Iqbal added.
The NAB DG explained that according to standard operating procedures, NAB only takes up cases where the amounts embezzled are in excess of Rs100 million.
Mr Iqbal told the meeting that while FIA has a limited role for the investigation of corruption cases against public servants only and has just 20pc of its staff working in its anti-corruption wing, NAB has the power to investigate public servants, politicians and anyone associated with a public office.
The NAB chairman decides which cases are to be investigated and which are to be passed on to FIA, the DG said.
This arrangement between the two anti-corruption offices is working since 2008, said FIA Additional DG Mohammad Shafiq.
However, special assistant to the prime minister on law and justice Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that overlapping occurs when NAB takes over a case that is already being investigated by FIA, whenever it felt necessary.
The meeting was also told that while NAB’s jurisdiction extended to public office holders, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata), FIA had to seek permission to take action.
The members of the committee were not content with what they described as an open-ended arrangement.
PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi did not agree with the NAB chairman making all the decisions while MQM Senator Mohammad Ali Khan Saif suggested NAB be given complete powers to investigate corruption cases.
NAB officials, on the other hand, felt that the bureau was already burdened. They said that between 500 and 600 investigation officers worked in the bureau in 2015, who dealt with 30,000 cases.
A procedure should be defined for preventing the overlap of powers between NAB and FIA, said the committee chairman, Senator Mohammd Javed Abbasi.
He directed NAB and FIA officials to present proposals for the removal of overlaps in the next meeting.