LAHORE: After the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has planned an intensified crackdown on illegal housing schemes across Punjab.
The establishment is almost done with the groundwork to point out societies that have committed irregularities and are involved in discrepancies. The list will be shared with the Punjab government within a week for approval.
Newly incumbent ACE Director General Muhammad Gohar Nafees, in an exclusive talk with The Express Tribune, said it was unfortunate that authentic data about the magnitude or details of such housing societies was unavailable.
He added that the losses caused by such projects were multifaceted, varying from damage to the environment, loss of revenue to the national exchequer and the nuisance caused to the end consumer-public.
Nafees took charge of the anti-corruption watchdog last month. Unlike his predecessors, who were more focused on unearthing corrupt practices in the departments, he has chosen to go after embezzlement, corruption and irregularities caused in mega projects and housing societies.
As far delineating the policy on ground is concerned, ACE Rawalpindi launched a crackdown against three illegal housing societies including Shalimar Farm covering 2,045 kanals and six marlas, Falcon Town on 322 kanals, Bismillah Farm 4,943 kanals and 17 marlas in Kalar Kahar. The area was full of natural beauty and resources. The ‘illegal’ societies, besides committing other irregularities, were allegedly involved in practices which endangered the environment.
Govt to build 4 housing projects in 3 major cities
These societies had not acquired NOCs (No Objection Certificates) from the environment department nor had a plan passed from district council Chakwal. The situation ended up causing a huge loss to the national exchequer.
The societies had also cut a mountain, reportedly leaving the area prone to landslides. Initially, Shalimar Hill Farm had managed to get NOC from the Environmental Protection Agency which was later withdrawn.
The project management had promised to plant at least 25,000 trees. They did otherwise.
ACE was also investigating how these societies had started advertisements on social media without an NOC.
Elaborating the irregularities and subsequent losses caused by these illegal housing societies, Nafees said these were looting billions of rupees of money instead of depositing these in national exchequer.
He said a certain percentage of the amount was supposed to be deposited to the Revenue Department on every transfer. The housing societies would transfer files without a change in entitlement multiple times. The DG continued that the housing societies did not forget to collect the percentage form the customer, he added.
“In terms of commercial area allocation, a certain amount from each society was to be provided to the government. However, these societies stole this money.”
Besides, the transfer percentage pending by the registered housing societies amounted to hundreds of millions in Lahore alone, he added. Nafees continued that this was in addition to the losses caused by illegal file transfers.
“Such housing societies lured citizens by showing them green pastures,” the DG concluded.
Mahmood okays three housing schemes in K-P
He added that grabbing land, whether public or private, was another crime these developers were involved in,” he continued.
“The greatest loss, which cannot be measured in terms of money, is environmental pollution. The illegal housing societies like the one in Kalar Kahar were eating uplands without considering if it as agricultural or residential. They would also not bother if it damaged or diminished natural or manmade resources.
Nafees said the crackdown would serve as a preemptive measure, in addition to a punitive one. He said it would also lead to the return of looted public wealth.
The ACE had written a letter, asking the Planning and Development (P&D) Board to provide information of all the development projects across the province.
The establishment also sought details of the local government development funds and powers of the representatives. In addition, it asked for records of streetlight procurement in the provincial capital and summoned all members of the relevant committee, as well as former lord mayor Col (retd) Mubashir Javed.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2019.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ