The PAC has also issued directives for making the list of 1,790 people who performed free Hajj public
Describing the briefing of the religious affairs secretary and the Hajj director general (DG) as unsatisfactory on the difficulties faced by the Pakistani pilgrims during the Hajj operation 2023, the Public Accounts Committee has decided to conduct a forensic audit of the Hajj expenditure and facility agreements.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has also issued directives for making the list of 1,790 people who performed free Hajj public.
A PAC meeting, held under the chair of Noor Alam Khan, examined the audit paras related to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for the year 2019-20, while the secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs gave the briefing to the committee on Hajj operations 2023.
The committee chairman strongly criticised the sending of government officials as Hajj aides and questioned what service an SSP and an additional secretary would have rendered to the pilgrims. “It was understandable sending government employees from grade 4 to grade 10, but under what law grade 17 and grade 19 officers went for free Hajj,” he remarked.
The PAC chairman expressed annoyance at the officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and asked why, despite the completion of Hajj, why Additional Secretary Atta-ul-Rehman did not return since other personnel, including the DG Hajj, are already in Saudi Arabia.
The auditor general of Pakistan told the PAC that the Hajj assistants were not allowed to go to the important places, including Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.
The secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs told the committee that the civil servants were also given TA/DA by their department and Hajj assistants were sent this year in line with the requirement of the Saudi law, making it mandatory to depute one assistant for every hundred pilgrims.
On the incomplete briefing of the ministry, the audit objections related to the accounts of the ministry were refused. “I possess videos showing problems faced by Pakistani pilgrims,” said the PAC chairman, adding that in one of the videos, the minister for religious affairs can be seen in trouble.
He said Pakistani pilgrims faced difficulties in acquiring transport, food and accommodation, with no solution in sight.
PAC Chairman Noor Alam Khan also said that the food of five-star hotels was written in the contracts, but complaints were received from pilgrims on the quality of the food.
PAC member Shahida Akhtar Ali said that most tour operators sold the quota of assistants and asked what the role of the private sector was in terms of assistants.
The PAC chairman said the DG Hajj sought time for the briefing but could not give a satisfactory answer to the committee regarding the rents of nearby and distant buildings in Makkah and Madinah.
The DG Hajj was barred from the briefing and directed to furnish all the documents and the agreements.
Noor Alam Khan appreciated the services of the late Mufti Abd al-Shakur as former minister for religious affairs, saying there was no complaint during his time.
He said that after the inquiry the committee would be able to cancel the licences of the responsible persons.
PAC member Sheikh Rohail Asghar urged cancelling the licences in case of complaints related to Hajj and Umrah.
The secretary of religious affairs said, “Our responsibility was to make Hajj arrangements in Madinah and Makkah while most of the complaints were received from other areas.” He added that the responsibility of making arrangements in those areas lay with the Saudi government.
While briefing the media after the meeting, Noor Alam Khan said that there would be a forensic audit of all matters of the Hajj operation, adding, “Free Hajj pilgrims will be identified.”
He said that Pakistani pilgrims suffered despite the fact that the private sector charged Rs2.5 million and the public sector received Rs1.18 million from the pilgrims.
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