The official audit of the financial year 2017-2018, by the Auditor General of Pakistan, reveal some very troubling findings about the mismanagement of the last regime, and the enormous amount of public money that is unaccounted for. The audit has pointed out mismanagement, irregularities and weak financial control of Rs5.8 trillion worth of public money by 44 federal ministries during the audit year. The findings were based on scrutiny of public funds of 44 out of 60 federal ministries and divisions and did not cover amounts below Rs1 million spent or received by these entities. The Auditor has also termed the appointment of the OGRA Chairperson as illegal due to a case of conflict of interest.

The obvious question that arises out of this massive example of incompetence and financial wastage is who to hold accountable. Certainly, the last party in government, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has a lot to answer for. This is likely to lead to further National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases against the previous government figures, as the audit reveals the several violations of financial rules committed by ministries and divisions. The former Finance Ministers may be in more jeopardy- the AGP reports that Finance Ministry failed to print, and thus misrepresented Rs3.89tr worth of supplementary grants. The illegal appointment of the OGRA Chairperson was also made during PML-N’s time, and thus may result in legal action against the party.

The fact that such outrageous financial mismanagement was allowed to happen reveals something broken in the system. It is hoped that the new Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government doesn’t politically use this audit- and instead focuses on its election promises of inducting financial transparency. There are many reforms the government can take to ensure more fiscal accountability-and it is hoped this audit propels the government to strengthen the financial rules and make budgetary information more accessible to the public.