The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has decided to conduct an inquiry into the award of a multi-million dollar project to a Chinese company by several big guns in the federal government.
On the directives of the Supreme Court, the NAB Executive Board gave the go-ahead to probe the $124 million Safe City Project for Islamabad. The contract had been awarded to Hauwei Tech Ltd by the interior ministry after being approved by former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2009.
The project, which involves the installation of security and surveillance equipment in Islamabad, was supposed to be utilised in Peshawar as well.
A petition was filed in the SC challenging the mechanism used in awarding the contract to the Chinese company, claiming that Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules were not followed by interior ministry officials.
The apex court declared the project illegal on August 23. The judgment authored by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed stated that the entire transaction was carried out in a non-transparent manner and at an inflated cost.
Moreover, the court ordered the government to re-initiate the procurement process in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 and the Public Procurement Rules (PPR), 2004. The accumulated cost of the project (Islamabad and Peshawar) was expected to be Rs19 billion. It was aimed at establishing a command centre and network by installing CCTV cameras, explosives detectors and scanners at entry and exit points of the two cities to counter terrorist activities.
According to a report of the Planning Commission which it had submitted to Gilani in 2010, the net value of the first phase of the project was $72 million, while the contract was awarded for $124.7 million.
The handout issued by NAB after an executive board meeting did not mention any names against whom the inquiry will be initiated; however, It is believed that if thoroughly probed, the inquiry could lead to high-up officials in the interior ministry being indicted. During court proceedings, Gilani’s name was also discussed with regard to the contract award.
The NAB board also asked its investigators to verify a complaint it had received against the incumbent auditor general of Pakistan, Tahir Mehmud, accusing him of embezzlement worth Rs5.47 million when he was working as the accountant general in Azad Kashmir.
The board also decided during the meeting to close an inquiry against Munawar Hussain Cheema, former additional deputy commissioner (Consolidation) Lahore. He was accused of illegally allotting Qazailbash Waqf (trust) land to tenants. During proceedings, allegations against the accused could not be proved. It was also established that no such illegal act had been committed by the accused.
The board also decided to close another inquiry against Aurangzeb khan, an ex district officer in Karak, presently serving as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Local Government & Rural Development Secretary, due to insufficient evidence. In this case, the accused person was alleged to have accumulated assets beyond known sources of income.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.