ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had to intervene to stop the ministry of defence production from buying 11,000 metric tons of chickpeas pulse (Daal Channa) from a convicted contractor, but by that time the state coffers had taken a hit of Rs 48.5 million, revealed a top auditor on Thursday.
In a stunning revelation, the director-general defence audit (north) told the Public Accounts Committee that despite a negative report submitted by intelligence agencies on April 9, 2008, the ministry dispatched the draft of the contract to Zia Siddique, the so-called chief executive of Rehman Daal Mills on April 24, 2008.
“The contract was cancelled only after the intervention of the COAS on June 20, 2008, at the risk and cost of the contractor.” During this time period the prices of chickpeas had significantly increased, he said, adding that the General Headquarters bought the commodity at Rs 59,500 per metric ton, which caused a loss of Rs 148.5 million to the exchequer.
“Then the GHQ decided to procure Daal Channa through Logistic Areas as a pilot project,” said the auditor.
The intelligence agencies had informed the director-general procurement Rawalpindi that the lowest bidder in the contract of chickpeas procurement was not only convicted in a fraud case and remained in Kot Lakhpat Jail Lahore but also did not own Rehman Daal Mills.
The official said the tender was issued on December 1, 2007 and the bids opening date was February 28, 2008, but the ministry gave a special treatment to Zia Siddique by allowing him to submit his bid just 24 hours before the opening of the tender documents.
It was the second case against the so-called owner of Rehman Daal Mills in less than 24 hours. On Wednesday, director-general commercial audit told the PAC that the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (PASSC), headed by a serving General, bought lentils from Rehman Daal Mills at Rs 30,125 per metric ton and barely four months later sold the commodity back to the same mill at Rs 27,125 per metric ton. This caused a loss of Rs 113.4 million to the national kitty.
Major-General Tariq, the army’s director-general procurement, could not satisfy the committee as to why the defaulter was allowed to participate in the bidding just a day before the tender opening.
“Many politicians landed in jails for allowing bidders to participate in the bidding process just before the tender opening, then why are the rules any different for the army?” queried PML-Q member Riaz Hussain Peerzada.
General Tariq contended that the bidder was contacted again on April 24 only after the other bidders offered Rs52,500 per metric ton rate and later on they too withdrew their offers.
The DG audit challenged the statement, saying that after the intelligence agencies report, the ministry entered into negotiations with the other four lowest bidders but again the contract was awarded to Zia Siddique.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 28th, 2010.