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January 18, 2021

Payments to Broadsheet

National

 
January 18, 2021

NAB was in full picture

By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which has attempted to distance itself from the whopping payments made to the Broadsheet LLC, has been very much involved in seeking the government's approval to settle the financial obligations imposed by the assets recovery firm.

More than a month before the Pakistan High Commission (PHC) London made a payment of $28.706 million (Rs4.59 billion) to the Broadsheet on the NAB behalf, the anti-corruption watchdog had got approval from the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet for paying $2,317,389.29 or Rs433.091 million to the same foreign firm, documents show.

On Dec 17, the financial division of the London High Court had issued a Final Third Party Order for payment to the Broadsheet by Dec 30.

The details of the ECC-approved payment of $2,317,389.29 or Rs433.091 million as requested by the NAB include: Interest on award (quantum): $1,023,049; Interest on award (costs): $221,161; short amount earmarked during the preceding financial year for the liability: $1,073,179.29; and fee of foreign lawyers/law firms: GBP 150,000.

The NAB summary dated Oct 26, 2020 for the ECC said that the Broadsheet pursued a case of arbitration against the Pakistan government through NAB in the Chartered Institute of Arbitration London. The arbitrator issued Part Final Award (Quantum) and Part Final Award (costs) for $27,226,590.50 with interest enforced after 60 days from the respective orders of the High Court of Justice London.

The NAB proposal said that the details of the payments to be made reflect that a liability of $2,317,389.29 is outstanding in addition to the liabilities on account of fee of foreign lawyers/law firms for GBP 150,000, which are equivalent to a total of Rs433.091 million against the Pakistan government.

The summary argued that during the current financial year, the NAB is facing serious budgetary stringencies. Due to paucity of funds, it is not in a position even to meet its recurring expenditure within the authorised budget grant, it noted and added that in view of the financial constraints against mandatory expenditure relating to the Part Final Award (quantum) as well as costs along with the interest a budgetary shortfall of Rs433.091 million has been envisaged for allocation of additional financial resources.

Its proposal sent to the ECC said that to meet the charges/liabilities as enumerated, the finance division should provide the funds of Rs433.091 million out of their own budgetary resources enabling the NAB to initiate a case for allocation of a technical supplementary grant of the equivalent amount. The office of the Attorney General for Pakistan has clarified that the NAB may process its summaries directly without routing them through the Law and Justice Division.

The NAB proposed that the ECC may recommend approval of the allocation of a technical supplementary grant of Rs433.091 million of the federal government in terms of Article 84 of the Constitution in its favour to meet these budgetary requirements.

The ECC met on Nov 4 and took up the “International arbitration – Broadsheet LLC vs Pakistan government (through NAB): Payment of Part Final Award (Quantum) and Part Final Award (Costs)”.

In its minutes marked as “secret”, the ECC precisely reproduced the NAB summary saying that it was informed about these details by the NAB.

The minutes said during the ensuing discussion, the additional secretary of the Cabinet Division drew the attention of the ECC to the observation made by the Finance Division that the NAB summary should be routed through the Law and Justice Division. The finance secretary stated that the proposal had already been concurred and supported with remarks that the NAB should route their summary to the ECC through Law and Justice Division.

The ECC chairman invited the comments of the Law and Justice Division, which opined that the NAB chairman being the principal accounting officer had full authority in respect of administrative and financial affairs of his organisation. Therefore, the summary may be approved by the ECC, which gave its approval to the NAB proposal.