The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has gathered a lot of support since its inception because it not only provides support to the less privileged strata of the society but has been consistently doing so for several years. Successive governments have let the programme run despite the risk that new governments disregard programmes set up by previous governments out of competition and to convert voters in their favour. However, a recent audit has shown irregularities in the accounts of the BISP which show mismanagement of billions of rupees. At the time when Farzana Raja was its chairperson, the appointment of State Life Insurance Corporation is said to have been done without an open competition.

State-run initiatives need to be managed in a manner which allows open competition. This increases the transparency of function and also limits the space for conflict of interest. However, in this case, when BISP management took out a newspaper advertisement in 2010 in respect of Waseela-i-Sehat, eight insurance companies submitted their proposal. When none of the companies met the criteria set by the board, they entrusted State Life Insurance Corporation with the task. At the same time, advertising agencies were selected without due diligence and payment of Rs1.64bn was made to advertising agencies in violation of PPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules.

The inquiry is undergoing at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where BISP management was not able to satisfy the committee and left several questions unanswered. An initiative functional at the national level must have all its records and appointments according to the proceedings of the relevant laws of the country. Such gross violations against an open competition taint the purpose of the initiative and create mistrust amongst the masses who rely on such support. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is also investigating the matter but has not found anything substantial so far.

PAC member Sherry Rehman said that Farzana Raja should be brought in to answer questions about the tenure. It is imminent that relevant people from the administration are brought in to clarify their stance and explain the loss of Rs2.74 billion as a result of a lack of an open competition in the selection process. State-run initiatives are not free from accountability. It is imperative that regular audits are conducted to help point out irregularities and reduce the space for maneuvering and serving personal interests. Even if State Life Insurance Corporation was the perfect company for the task, the records should have justified it.