ISLAMABAD -  Chairman National Accountability Bureau Qamar Zaman Chaudhary has directed regional bureaus to process plea bargain applications in accordance with the law and standard operating procedures, The Nation learnt reliably on Wednesday.

The anti-corruption watchdog came under severe criticism after it entered into a plea bargain deal with former officials of Balochistan government in a mega corruption scam and some pointed finger at it for recovering a pittance out of the actually embezzled amount.

According to available documents with The Nation, Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chaired a high level meeting on reconciliation of voluntary return and plea bargain recoveries on February 2. Deputy Chairman NAB, Director General Headquarters, DG Operations, Additional and Deputy Director Finance were attended the meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to seek approval of updated voluntary return (VR) and plea bargain (PB) recovery figures for inclusion in Annual Report-2016. Moreover, a direction for inclusion of previous such recoveries was also required.  

The documents revealed that members of the meeting were apprised that after issuance of National Accountability (amendment) Ordinance-2017, regional bureaus were earlier communicated that SOPs on VRs and PBs be suspended, and any fresh decision on VR/PB taken after 17th January, 2017 be withheld. In this connection, it was decided that since the National Accountability(amendment) Ordinance-2017 had been repealed/cancelled and there was no restraining order on PBs under section 25 (b) of NAB Ordinance of 1999 by superior courts. Therefore, regions may process PB application under section 25(b) of NAB Ordinance of 1999 only in accordance with law and SOP.

The documents said it was apprised that the exercise on reconciliation of NAB recoveries had already been completed by the finance wing of the bureau, and after the approval of the competent authority, the recovery figures had been circulated vide letter dated 12th April, 2016. By the aforementioned date, the VR/BP recoveries were Rs 32.490 billion.

Now a detailed working has been carried out by operation division and finance wing for whole of the year 2016 and thus VR/PB recoveries of the year from 2016 have been calculated as Rs10.289 billion. These recoveries also include recoveries in cash or in shape of immovable properties including houses, shops, plots and land. In this connection, the chairman directed DG operations to confirm valuation, title and status of such properties from the reporting regional bureaus before including the same in the recovery figures in the Annual Report 2016. It was further directed that indirect recoveries prior to 2016 that have not been included in the earlier recovery, reconciliation exercise are not required to be included at this stage; however, such recoveries may be enlisted separately.

After through deliberations on various types of NAB recoveries, it was decided that VR/PB recoveries under section (25)a and (b)  of the NAB Ordinance of 1999 would only include payments credited  to Chairman NAB’s account and property surrendered in favour of NAB or respective provincial/federal governments. All other recoveries (in cash and kind) after cognizance/consent of NAB would be considered as indirect recoveries. However, proper evolution is to be carries out before reporting such figures.

Chairman NAB appreciated efforts of finance wing and VR/PB cell in NAB Headquarter for reconciliation of subject recoveries. The documents further said that minutes of the meeting would be treated as executive orders for implantation.

Talking to The Nation, NAB spokesperson Asim Ali Nawazish said NAB was processing PB applications under the light of Supreme Court judgment. He said that NAB was following the law in processing PB applications.