KARACHI: Some of Sindh’s most influential people are apparently trying to cover up billions of rupees worth of corrupt practices in the province’s education department. Instead of taking action against corrupt individuals or any practical measures to address the tattered government education system, the irregularities have been shoved into cold storage.
According to a report prepared by IBA Sukkur’s assessment team and available with The Express Tribune, monetary corruption on a massive scale was found in the Education Management Information System (EMIS) project initiated by the Sindh Education and Literacy Department.
The project was designed to introduce customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI), in the Education and Literacy Department in accordance with technological advances. Stakeholders, however, were never taken onboard.
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Unsurprisingly, the project, which had been split into two phases, fell flat during phase one.
The Sindh Education and Literacy Department had initiated the EMIS project with Rs3.89 billion in 2014. The project was designed to offer an effective information system for the entire department.
The project was to be completed in two phases (2014-2015 and 2016-2017). The first project was initiated with nearly Rs500 million in funding provided.
A project management unit (PMI) and 40 ICT labs were to be set up, while two outside broadcasting (OB) vans were to be procured and a system for the safety of documents and data archiving was to be completed in the first phase.
Rs22.66 million was approved for procuring the OB vans, but the incurred cost was as low as Rs17. 536 million. A company called Sapphire was responsible for procuring the vans. An amount of Rs70.235 million was approved for the contract for data archiving and data security, which was awarded to AGCN. The actual cost stood at Rs69.9 million.
The task of formulating the ICT academies was awarded to Socio Engineering Consultants. The actual expenditure incurred stood at Rs243.327 million against the approved Rs248.84 million.
Serious violations of the rules and regulations, misuse of resources, shortages of staff, inactivity of the forums responsible for oversight of the project, and several other factors led to the failure of the project. The report also mentions the paid outsourcing of work for which free alternatives were available.
Public procurement rules (SPPRA) were also overlooked during the procurement of many project components. According to copies of the consignment challan, the concerned vendors provided all the items to the Education and Literacy Department, which was received by an officer named Abdul Azeem. However, according to a copy of the written statement, the officer did not receive them but only signed the receipt for depositing with the Sindh accountant general, which raises serious questions over the credibility of the documents.
Initiating the project without a project management unit (PMU) led to failure and mismanagement at initial stages. Meanwhile, several elements of the project were incomplete, including scanning software. The procured OB vans also remained unused because of the failure to hire relevant staff.
According to the report, issues also remain around the remaining payments and other dues. The assessment team had sought the record of the dues on the first day, but these were not provided.
The report also lists recommendations regarding the failure of the project, according to which, it is important to have an adequate system for achieving the desired results. It suggests that with effective supervision and accountability, the project would have been able to deliver the results.
The PC-I had approved Rs15.291 million for PMU education e-governance, while the total cost of machinery, structure, CRM, civil works, and tools procured through the private companies Jaffer Brothers, Sapphire, Text, and Ellite stood at Rs143.49 million.
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According to the report, the procured products are not comparable to the quality available for CRM in the market. No details pertaining to the items and their functionalities are mentioned in the work order, and neither was any information pertaining to the schools that the OB vans toured shared.
The vans’ readings, however, show that schools in far-flung areas were not visited.
The desired results could not be achieved despite heavy investment in the procurement of OB vans and their equipment.
The computer hardware provided by the Jaffar Brothers passed the inspection conducted by the assessment team.
No action was taken against those responsible after the Education Department received the report prepared by IBA Sukkur.
The education secretary did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2019.