Food and forestry departments: Audit reveals misappropriation of over Rs10b

Published: October 1, 2017
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PHOTO SOURCE: EXPRESS

PHOTO SOURCE: EXPRESS

LAHORE: Irregularities, misappropriation of funds, poor record management and corruption of over Rs 10.435 billion were discovered in the Punjab Food department and the Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries department. This was unveiled by the Auditor General of Pakistan’s (Punjab) latest audit report for FY 2015-16.

A copy of the report, made available to The Express Tribune, revealed misappropriation and irregularities of Rs. 9.073 billions in the food department out of which Rs.7.106 billion was involved in irregular procurement of stock. At the same time, Rs.1.362 billion worth of irregularities were unearthed in the in Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries Department. Of the total, Rs560.64 million worth of government dues were not recovered.

Food Department

The audit observed various contracts were awarded for the procurement of different materials such as jute bags, PP bags and AP tablets etc. However, it did not find any proof, at the time of evaluation of technical proposals, that the specifications of materials to be procured were tested from a recognised government laboratory.

The audit was of the view that irregular procurement took place due to weak internal controls. The matter was pointed out to the formation which replied that the department purchased the items after observing procedural formalities under the rules. It added the detailed reply would be given in the due course of time.

The subject was further reported to the administrative department in the Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) meeting which was held on January 15, 2016. The paras were kept pending for compliance. However, the audit recommended that a probe may be held to fix responsibility for failing to adhere to the rules.

The report further revealed a loss of Rs949million to the government due to the shortage of stock. During the scrutiny of the bardana inventory register of various centres under DFC Sahiwal, the audit observed from the footnotes that certain quantities, valued at over Rs13,714,094, were missing on different grounds. The matter was reported, but no reply received.

The report further highlighted that an amount of Rs.705,349,237 was recoverable from different officials on account of penalties imposed by competent authorities. The audit recommended prompt recovery of the outstanding amounts and the strengthening of internal controls to avoid such lapses in future.

The report, titled Audit Report on the Accounts of Government of the Punjab: Audit Year 2015-16, showed auditors wrote 2,046 paras of irregularities, inappropriate use of funds, poor record management, lack of transparency. However, the department hardly complied with 50% of the objections.

Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries Department

Similarly, the audit observed the non-recovery of government dues of amounting to Rs.560.64million in the Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries department. It said the amount was outstanding against various contractors on account of sale of timber and from officers/officials on account of theft, damages of trees/woods.

The audit was of the view that weak internal controls over the management of assets resulted in the accumulation of such a huge recoverable balance. The matter was pointed out to the formation during the audit conducted from March to November 2015. Some of the formations noted the observations for compliance and the others replied that the recoveries were regularly being affected from the pay of the concerned officers/officials.

However, they did not produce any relevant evidence in support of their contention. The matter was reported to the DAC meetings on February 2016, but some paras were kept pending.

The audit also revealed Rs.273.90million worth of illicit cultivation of forest land. It observing huge tracts of land, belonging to the department, was illegally cultivated by locals. The report pointed out that no steps were taken by the department to stop the illegal cultivation of forest land.

Illicitly cultivated land was auctioned by taking reserve rates from the deputy district officer (Revenue) instead of the Forest Department’s own scheduled rates.

Also, the crop was auctioned, but no supporting documents were available on record. Forest land was illegally occupied by the local people but illicit cultivated land was not auctioned.

The audit found wasteful expenditure of Rs.138.37million, observing out of four national parks, only Lal Suhanra was functional while the rest lay dormant despite the utilisation of departmental and public resources amounting to 138.37 million. It said no concrete efforts to make them functional were found on record. The audit also found non-disposal of timber, wood, stumps, seeds and plants worth Rs98.49million.

However, the report showed auditors wrote 1761 paras of irregularities, inappropriate use of funds, poor record management and lack of transparency. The department hardly complied with 54% of these objections.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2017.

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