The Auditor General of Pakistan’s report regarding embezzlement and misappropriation of funds in various ministries is nothing short of shocking. Rs12 billion have disappeared, but this does not even account for the whopping Rs258 billion that is missing as a result of irregularities.

It is not surprising that these misappropriations are an endemic issue in government departments. However, the fact that this report only covers the year 2018-2019—Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) first full year in power—should be a serious cause for concern.

This is a bigger problem than first feared, because the PTI government has made transparency and accountability its mantra from the very beginning. And judging by the reported statement of Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, there has been progress made on this front—up to as much as 80 percent.

The numbers in question though, are still too significant to be chalked off as an actual achievement. Rs12 billion was found to have been stolen, but in all likelihood, this is an underestimate because there is no telling how much of the Rs258 billion was pilfered as well.

Improvement is quite obviously needed. Funds earmarked for development disappearing means that the projects they were set aside for will need additional funds or will use shoddy materials, which could prove to be harmful later. The ramifications of these yearly leakages can only be realised fully in the long-term, if at all.

Investigations must be carried out as a follow up to this report in the ministries identified. Those found complicit in this should be punished immediately. This is necessary both as a detriment, and a means to keep sticky fingers off funds from the national kitty.

The government still needs to traverse a long road before it can claim success in its fight against corruption. Focusing on each ministry and scrutinising the current discrepancies, alongside past ones also needs to be focused on.