Saeeda Naz

The National Accountability Bureau (Nab), as a premier anti-corruption agency, is responsible for eliminating corruption from the society through comprehensive approaches and drives. Accountability is not merely a task of catching the culprits, but making systems accountable and responsive to the public. The bureau has tried to produce the best possible results in curbing the menace of corruption by employing various tools like awareness, prevention, education and enforcement. It is well aware of the fact that policing alone cannot solve the problem of corruption. It also believes in the commitment of ownership by involving the civil society and public at large against corrupt practices. The feelings to inculcate among the masses against corruption are essential, as a part of awareness and preventive measures. So, NAB is now undergoing a process of revival and rejuvenation by enhancing its qualitative and quantitative strength to address this issue in an effective way.

When we look at its performance during the year 2011, we may conclude that despite various hurdles, like insufficient manpower, budgetary cuts, non-cooperation from other departments, frequent changes, as well as delay in the appointment of its Chairman, the bureau has done well. In addition, new initiatives were introduced in 2011 by the Chairman to expedite disposal of cases, thus clearing a significant backlog. The training of officials, the activation of the International Wing, recovery of plundered money through plea bargains and voluntary returns, preventive and awareness activities in educational institutions and other departments in all the four provinces with the collaboration of the bureau’s Awareness and Prevention Wing are significant.

The bureau received 6,988 complaints during 2011 totalling 8,376 complaints, with a backlog of 1,388. Out of these, 5,999 (72 percent) were processed (completed, filed, referred to departments etc) and 2,377 complaints (28 percent) are currently pending.

Further, high priority is assigned to the cases that involve an amount of over Rs100 million and/or where the case pertains to public interest. A total of 359 fresh inquiries were authorised by the bureau during 2011, raising pendency to a total of 963, including the backlog of 604 inquiries.

In the beginning, the Nab requests the Ministry of Interior to place the name of the accused persons on ECL, where an inquiry is initiated. However, the names are removed after the closure of cases or discharge of complete liability through plea bargain or finalised by the courts. So, the bureau issued warrants of 130 accused persons under review out of which 86 were arrested, while other 44 are still at large. Combined with the number of persons pertaining to previous years, a total of 275 accused remained at large. The bureau is persistently making efforts to apprehend the absconders in collaboration with the police and international agencies.

More so, the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 states that “the holder of public office or any other person can voluntarily come forward to return illegal gains made by him.” ‘Plea Bargains’ and ‘Voluntary Returns (VR)’ are effective and innovative tools designed to assist in the swift recovery of the plundered money and ensure that the proceeds can be returned to the affected persons or deposited with the government treasury. The amounts recovered through VRs were Rs214.0 million in 43 cases and Rs687.0 million through plea bargains in 50 cases. The total amount that is transferred to the government’s account by the Nab from 2002 to 2011 is Rs4646.018 million.

During 2011, the Training and Evaluation Wing organised several courses for Nab employees at various national and international institutions. The regional offices were also tasked to arrange workshops to impart the requisite knowledge about the modern techniques of investigation. A few officers were sent abroad for advance training to improve their capabilities.

After reviewing its performance for the year 2011, it may be concluded that against all odds, Nab has successfully achieved its targets. One can hope that it takes more positive and speedy actions in 2012 to eradicate corruption from the country. However, the bureau alone cannot do this; it needs the support of the society and state institutions. Also, political will is essential to curbing the menace of corruption. Thus, with the positive role of media and strong political will exhibited by the top hierarchy to end corruption, Nab can and will effectively put an end to corrupt practices. Speedy trial of the corruption cases and exemplary punishment by the accountability courts, too, will play a prime role in reducing the level of corruption from society. It is hoped that Nab will introduce new initiatives towards speedy trial of corruption cases.