KARACHI: Government officials are consuming water through tankers like every other resident of the city but, unlike everyone else, they are not paying for them.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Sindh Assembly was informed on Friday that the Chief Minister House, Governor House, Airport Security Force (ASF), town municipal administrations (TMAs) and other VIPs living in Karachi owe the water board a whopping Rs23 billion for the tankers.
Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) managing director Misbahuddin Farid told the provincial watchdog that officials of Pakistan Rangers and some retired judges were also on the list of defaulters. These officials have failed to pay despite repeated reminders, he said.
Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Sardar Shah, who is a member of the PAC, suggested the KWSB discontinue water supply to the defaulters but Farid expressed his helplessness. “This amount has been outstanding since 2008 and we cannot stop tanker services to CM and Governor houses,” he said. PAC chairperson Saleem Raza Jalbani asked his staff to write letters to the chief minister and the governor to clear their water dues.
Funds under scrutiny
The PAC meeting was held to review the audit paras for the year 2010-11 for the KWSB and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). The audit officer pointed out that both departments have violated rules while spending their budgets.
The KWSB chief provided official accommodation to his employees but he failed to recover the electricity expenses and ended up paying bills worth Rs540,000 from the official budget. The water board has around 13,500 employees and 17 colonies where only 20% of the employees are living. Farid assured the PAC members that he will deduct the outstanding electricity charges from the employees’ salaries.
Farid pointed out that his department faces a financial crisis and they are struggling with the issue of excessive employees. The PAC chairperson told him to furnish a list of total employees at the next meeting.
Meanwhile, the audit officer also pointed out that the KWSB had shown Rs10 million as fuel expenses for its eight vehicles. “They have shown this expense but did not provide us proper records,” he said. Farid assured he will provide the vouchers and other records within 15 days.
The PAC was told that the water board spent Rs90 million on development schemes and allowed excess payments of Rs24 million without the approval of a competent authority. The KWSB MD clarified that the amount was revised on the recommendation of the then project director. However, Jalbani and other PAC members said that this amount cannot be revised without the approval of the higher authority, such as the chief minister. Farid failed to provide an explanation for this so the PAC chairperson ordered an inquiry.
KMC plays safe
During the audit, most of the KMC funds were settled. The audit officer said that the officials have provided records of the expenditure and they found no discrepancies.
KMC administrator Laiq Ahmed said that they faced financial crisis soon after the collection of Octroi Zila Tax was handed over to the federal government. “KMC had been an impressive corporation in the country that has once given loan of Rs60 million to the Pakistan government in 1947,” he pointed out. “If the tax is revived, then KMC will regain its old position,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2016.