The perks, privileges, offices and entourages enjoyed by our elected officials have angered the populace time and again. It is not only that they are excessive in a country plagued by poverty - such as free first class airline tickets on the national carrier and allowances to buy everything from furniture to housing — but that the MNAs and MPAs constantly, and greedily, try to keep increasing them.

Yet it seems that even with all this luxury, the MNA's can't keep their mitts of the public's money. The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has found irregularities worth over Rs 101 million in the financial affairs of the National Assembly (NA) during a scrutiny of its accounts from the last financial year. Our elected representatives, hard at work.

The individuals involved range from former speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza to MNA Shahzada Mohiuddin, who along with others received funds from the assembly accounts to have expensive medical treatments – most of them from the United States or the United Kingdom. This is objectionable in itself, these acts become illegal when we consider that Cabinet Division had decided in 1996 that “the facility of medical treatment abroad at public expenditure should be withdrawn”. Subsequently, the Prime Minister’s Directive of February 2, 1997 revoked the policy of arranging medical treatment for representatives/government officers at state expense. 

Such illegal, under the table transactions are condemnable for any parliamentarian, but they become more problematic when the recipient is the Speaker of the House; a position that is the guardian of the rules of parliament, and arbitrator of its business.

Medial allowances aren't the only irregularity; Rs 86.86 million was paid in “inadmissible payment of housing allowance” to lawmakers who were already staying at furnished suites at the Federal Lodges, homes designed specifically to avoid this allowance in 1974. Such a basic mechanism, which would be classified as criminal fraud in every other scenario, is gently termed “a violation” by the Auditor General, who suggested that these funds should be recovered.

But it is not enough that we recover the funds. Fraud should not be left unpunished, and this is exactly that; made worse by the fact that the people breaking the law are the ones who are supposed to draft it and look after it, and the scene of the crime is the sacred house of the parliament. Strict action is needed.