Small clique in charge of massive funds: SC

Declares Sindh Coal Authority a dysfunctional entity sans a proper board


Hasnaat Mailk March 24, 2017
Orders Chief Secretary Sindh to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within two months. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The top court has put a question mark over Rs105 billion development projects and schemes, initiated by the Sindh government under the Sindh Coal Authority and its newly formed Special Initiative Department.

Disposing of a suo motu case regarding corruption in the Sindh Coal Authority, the Supreme Court’s three-judge bench – headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim – has issued a 19-page judgment that declares that without a functional board, the authority is dysfunctional.

“We are also at a complete loss to understand how a newly created department, which has no designated business or functions under the Rules of Business [and] has no expertise, capacity or experience would be able to undertake these multifarious projects/schemes,” says the verdict, authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The court says the Sindh Coal Authority was established to explore, develop, process, mine and utilise coal in Sindh; however, instead of undertaking what the law mandates it to do, it undertook activities which the Sindh Coal Authority Act does not permit, and that too without the approval of its board.

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Likewise, the Special Initiative Department – to which the rules of business have not designated any business – is merely a department in the name. Nonetheless it has embarked upon undertaking a number of projects and schemes for which it has absolutely no mandate or ability.

The SC notes that Sindh Coal Authority and the Special Initiative Department are implementing and executing projects and schemes worth Rs105,906,940,000.

“[However] a small clique of persons is put in charge of these massive funds, avoiding established methods of checks and balances and circumventing the prescribed manner of implementing and executing of projects/schemes; which is a matter of grave public concern,” says the verdict.

Justice Isa observes that it eroded good governance and accountability when a moribund organisation like the Sindh Coal Authority was pretended to be activated or a new department like the Special Initiative Department was created and then projects and schemes were routed through them.

“And we were told that, after the [Sindh Coal] Authority and this new department have executed the projects and schemes these will be handed over to the regular departments of the government for operation and maintenance.

“[The] departments which had no hand in either formulating or executing them would assume the entire responsibility for ensuring they [the projects] are operating properly and periodically maintained, and without providing money to do this. And then, one supposes, when it emerges, that a project/scheme is deficient, dysfunctional or badly executed, the blame charade will commence.”

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The court observes that specific persons were illegally appointed or inducted in the Sindh Coal Authority and it was through these persons that projects worth billions of rupees were executed.

“In such a scenario, in the absence of a functioning board where all decisions were taken without the authorisation of the board, the DG and energy secretary become all the more responsible and accountable,” it says.

Directions

The top court has directed that an inquiry be conducted by Sindh chief secretary with regard to all the projects undertaken by the Sindh Coal Authority and the Special Initiative Department in line with the observations made in the judgment.

“The chief secretary shall within two months from the date of the communication of this judgment submit his proposed report, which shall be put up for our perusal in chambers, where after further orders would be passed by this court,” says the ruling,

The court has also declared the Sindh Coal Authority can only implement and execute such projects and schemes which are mentioned in the Sindh Coal Authority Act.

“The projects and schemes which are not in respect of exploration, development, processing, mining or utilising of coal in Sindh, be immediately transferred to the concerned government department in terms of Schedule II of the Sindh Government Rules of Business,” it says.

 

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