KARACHI: It might take months of protests and hunger strikes for the lower education staff to get their overdue salaries, but for at least 44 employees in the agriculture department, all it took was fake appointment letters. These employees were hired on fabricated documents and have been receiving their salaries for the last two years, disclosed Agriculture Secretary Agha Jan Akhtar at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday.
The meeting was held by PAC chairman Jam Tamachi Unar. Akhtar said the department did not know about these employees, who were hired as crop reporters in different districts in 2008. Perhaps treasury officials were involved because these employees were given their wages as well as additional perks.
“We sacked these employees [after we found out they were hired on fake documents] and then referred the case to the anti-corruption department. However, the employees challenged this decision in the high court. The court gave a stay order, which means the employees would continue to get their salaries till further orders,” he said. A similar fraud was discovered in the education department a few days ago, he added,
Unar directed the accounts committee to inform President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Sindh Agriculture Minister Ali Nawaz Shah of the issue. “This kind of offence will defame not only the government but the ruling party as well. We should take strict action against the black sheep involved.” He added that it could not have happened without some bureaucrats and department officials being in on it.
The agriculture secretary said that influential men have encroached on agricultural land worth billions of rupees in several districts in Sindh. Even worse, government land was sold at throwaway prices from 1999 to 2003. In 2001, the governor of Sindh ordered the Privatisation Commission of Pakistan to sell public land to a private party in Adilpur, Ghotki district despite the agriculture department’s objection. Later, the department hired a private lawyer and challenged the PCP’s decision in court. Unfortunately, the court decided in favour of the PCP - but the department has not given up hope. “We have hired another renowned lawyer and will challenge this decision in the Supreme Court,” he said.
The PAC chairman directed the committee to get the law secretary’s opinion on the issue and to write a letter to the CM and the agriculture minister, asking them to hurry up the process.
According to the Audit Director-General Najmul Saqib Siddiqui, land mafia has encroached on 64 acres of the department’s land. Out of this, 40 acres had been marked for a coconut research station in Korangi, Karachi. Instead, the mafia has built a plaza there. The other 24 acres are in Husri, Hyderabad, land that was meant for a vegetable research centre.
Akhtar denied the Hyderabad encroachment, however he admitted the land in Korangi had been taken over. He has forwarded that case to the anti-corruption department.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2011.
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