Former WAPDA head summoned for placing Rs2.4b meant for building dam in private bank

PAC summons ex-Wapda chief to clarify why money not surrendered after work on Naulang dam failed to start


Shahbaz Rana November 03, 2017
Representational image of an under-construction dam. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday summoned a former head of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) who placed public funds worth Rs2.4 billion in a private commercial bank meant for the construction of a dam.

The Planning and Development Ministry had sanctioned the funds for Naulang dam which was supposed to be built in Jhal Magsi, Balochistan, but work on the project never began.

Appearing before the PAC, officials of the Water Resources Division and Chairman Wapda Lt Gen (retd) Muzammil Hussain failed to make a satisfactory reply.

Chairman PAC Syed Khursheed Shah directed the authorities concerned to summon the then chairman Wapda and the secretary Water and Power Ministry for placing the money in Bank Alfalah.

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Dr Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) suspected an element of corruption behind the placement of public funds in a private bank.

The money had been released to Wapda by 2014, but it was neither used for the intended purpose nor was it returned to the federal government.

The newly-appointed Secretary Water Resources, Khawja Shamail, told members of the PAC that the money was placed in a Bank Alfalah account, but the chairman Wapda tried to hide that fact.

PAC members took notice of the delay in the dam’s construction and pointed out that the project was conceived by the previous PPP government in 2009 for irrigating 47,000 acres of land and generating 4.4 megawatts of electricity in Balochistan.

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The project cost had already swelled from Rs11.6 billion to Rs28 billion.

The PAC chairman wondered how Wapda could retain the money that belonged to the federal government.

The acting secretary Planning Ministry pointed out that all unspent money should be surrendered on May 15 every year, but Wapda did not surrender the money and kept it in a private account.

In a letter sent just a week before the PAC meeting, the water wing reminded Wapda that withholding funds amounting to more than Rs2 billion was actually an ‘irregularity’.

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Between 2010 and 2014, the Planning Ministry sanctioned the money after the endorsement of its water wing.

In 2009, the then PPP government decided to build the dam in district Jhal Magsi at a cost of Rs11.7 billion. But the lowest bidder M/s DESCON Limited offered a bid of Rs12.2 billion, forcing Wapda to annul the bidding process.

The chairman WAPDA claimed that Rs700 million had been diverted to another delayed project, the Kachhi Canal project. But the Ministry of Finance rebutted the claim and said it did not authorise the diversion of funds.

In January last year, the CDWP considered the revised project documents and decided that the government will not fund the Naulang dam from the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). It instead asked Wapda to approach the Economic Affairs Division for arranging foreign loans for the project.

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In fact, it was Chief of Water Resources Syed Naseer Gilani who suggested that the money could be arranged from a foreign lender, the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of South Korea.

In March last year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) indicated its willingness to finance the project subject to certain conditions.

But in July this year, the Ministry of Water and Power contended that the project’s design was flawed. It also said the government of Balochistan was also not willing to take responsibility for the project.

The chairman Wapda argued that the ADB offer might still be utilised as the project was technically ready for implementation. He said this after the Ministry of Water Resources maintained that the ADB funding might be diverted to other projects because of certain unresolved issues.

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