Corruption is undoubtedly one of the main stumbling blocks in our way of achieving a fair and equitable society Third world countries lag behind the developed world because institutions of the former are plagued with corruption and inefficiency. After the Panama Leaks, reactions of the rulers and the ruled in both the developing and the developed world reflected this stark difference. In Pakistan, politics after the Leaks revolves around corruption and accountability. The institutions whose main objective is to curb corruption have been criticised harshly by the courts and by the people at large for their inefficiency to do their assigned tasks in line with constitutional parameters. Corruption is undoubtedly one of the main stumbling blocks in the way of us achieving a fair and equitable society. This is high time for us to take stock of the factors as to what has gone wrong in our case when it comes to curbing corruption and holding the corrupt accountable. There are several anti-corruption agencies working at federal and provincial levels. The agencies at the federal level are the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and at provincial level, there are Anti-Corruption Establishments (ACEs). NAB is the leading anti-corruption agency, but it is the most controversial as well. NAB has failed terribly in curbing corruption through its three-pronged strategy i.e. awareness, prevention and enforcement. Rather, it has been used by successive governments to settle score with their political opponents. It is also alleged to have legalised corruption by resorting to plea bargain.As a result, this has reinforced the public impression that if you have enough money, you can get out of trouble. Surprisingly, no high profile politician or bureaucrat has ever been convicted by NAB.NAB’s “Say No to Corruption” mantra becomes irrelevant when more is known of plea bargains and not going against the powerful sections of society. This very inefficiency of the institution led the Supreme Court to declare it ‘the dead one’; meaning thereby that it is unable to take actions when it matters. Same is the case with the rest of the anti-corruption agencies in the country. If international experience is anything to go by, anti-corruption agencies or mechanisms have an important role to play in combating corruption in countries where levels of corruption are modest. In our case where corruption is wide-spread, these mechanisms cannot deliver because the problem lies beyond the scope of these agencies. Widespread corruption means that the governance system is dysfunctional, and public sector organisations are not working consistently within the given parameters; this is neither the domain of NAB nor any other anti-corruption agency in the country. This is where the role of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) becomes all the more important as well as highly relevant in improving the governance system. Being a national-level watchdog agency, the prime objective of the AGP is to oversee the management of public finances. Traditionally, its role has been seen as promoting public sector transparency and accountability. Government auditing is an important institutional arrangement in modern governance: it is aimed at monitoring, appraising and accountability. By monitoring as to how public resources are used, auditing can strengthen accountability and deter misuse of authority and resources. The AGP is the only institution that can be instrumental in making public sector organisations act within the given legal and constitutional framework when it comes to financial discipline and accountability. Unlike the above-mentioned agencies, the AGP conducts audit of every public sector organisation on a regular basis, and thus occupies a unique position given its outreach and close interaction with all the public sector entities. This unique position of the department can be effectively used in bringing an end to corruption; provided the government strengthens the AGP to do the same. Many countries in the world have successfully used government audit institutions in combating corruption. For example, the USA introduced the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Brazil established audit courts in order to have strong check on public sector institutions. Recently, China has successfully used government auditing and discipline enforcement in its fight against corruption. Traditionally, the role of the AGP, as already mentioned above, is seen as promoting public sector transparency and accountability. The role of government auditing in fighting corruption is therefore taken as an indirect one: focusing on deterrence and prevention. NAB has failed terribly in curbing corruption; it has been used by successive governments to settle scores with their political opponents and is also alleged to have ‘legalised corruption’ by resorting to plea bargains It is pertinent to remark here that the institutional framework of the AGP is based on the Westminster model, also known as the Anglo-Saxon or Parliamentary model. Under this model, the National Audit Office is headed by an independent Auditor General (the AGP in our case) which submits audit reports to the Public Accounts Committee. This model is used in the United Kingdom and most of the Commonwealth countries. The Judicial or Napoleonic model is used by France, several countries in Europe, Turkey,and the Latin American countries, including Brazil and Colombia.Under this arrangement, a Court of Audit becomes part of the judicial system, and tries those engaged in the misuse of public funds and authority. As existing institutional arrangements in the country have not yielded the desired results in curbing corruption, there is a dire need to revamp the system. By merging the above-mentioned models through establishment of audit courts, fighting corruption will become the prime objective of the government auditing. Keeping in view the deplorable condition our institutions are in, the proposed audit courts will exert a great pressure on the public sector institutions to mend their ways by operating within legal and constitutional parameters. Through audit courts, fixing responsibility against those involved in the misuse of public funds and authority can be viewed as a very potent threat for corrupt practices. The earlier we take steps in the right direction, the better it will be. The writer is a civil servant Published in Daily Times, September 14th 2017.