SHC irked by gross misuse of public funds

Rejects contractor's plea for release of 'due' payments

Our Correspondent April 22, 2016
Sindh High Court building. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has expressed serious concern over the 'sorry state of affairs prevailing in the province wherein state-run projects are created on paper and huge sums are paid to selected contractors from the public exchequer.'

The observation came in a recent SHC judgment with regard to payment of outstanding bills to contractors in Bhambore dairy village and processing zone project.

The Bhambore dairy village scheme was approved on April 6, 2012 at a cost of Rs2.8 billion over a period of three years (2011-2014). Announcing the judgment, SHC chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah observed: This entire case shows the sorry state of affairs prevailing wherein projects are created on paper, huge sums of money are paid to the selected contractors who, being hands-in-glove with government officials, receive no-objection certificates with regard to their payments and huge sums of money are disbursed to them at the cost of the public exchequer."

A private contractor had moved an application before the SHC seeking withdrawal of over Rs133 million deposited by the provincial government with a court official (Nazir) owing to the ongoing arbitration over payments.

The applicant's lawyer said the contract was awarded after the contractor provided suitable bank guarantees to the provincial government (since expired), and commencing work, submitted bills as per the terms of the contract. Under this agreement, payments for the mobilisation advance of 10% and the first running bill were made to the contractor. The lawyer said the amount should be released to his client.

Meanwhile, additional advocate-general Barrister Ghulam Mustafa Mahesar said Rs181 million over and above the work reportedly performed by the petitioner were paid to him illegally while the whole project was a sham and crookedly engineered by the petitioner and then secretary livestock and fisheries, among other government officials.

He informed the court that the reality surfaced when the relevant minister visited the site and was shocked to observe zero progress at the project site and brought the matter into the notice of the chief minister.

He added that the livestock and fisheries department secretary fled the country and his successor was contemplating to sail in the same dirty waters, but was immediately stopped.

The provincial law officer submitted that the entire project, right from its commencement, was an exercise for plundering large amounts of public funds for which some government officers worked secretly with the petitioner in a bid to make money.

The court observed that looking at the stance of the government, very little work has been performed on the site and the contractor has already received more than Rs181 million over and above his work, saying it finds the gross misuse of public funds irreconcilable to judicial conscience.

The court asked the petitioner that if the money lying with the Nazir is handed over to the petitioner, and the arbitration goes against him, would it not amount to further plundering of public funds.

The provincial law officer submitted that such a disbursement would only facilitate the petitioner sharing this ill-gotten money with other perpetrators.

The bench directed the Nazir to return the cheques to the provincial government.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.


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