Rs74b libraries project marred by corruption

CM hints high-level inquiry to ascertain facts


Yousaf Abbasi July 25, 2020

LAHORE:

Massive corruption has been revealed in the procurement o library books amounting to Rs74 billion for 440 government schools in 11 districts of Punjab with funding from a British organisation called the Department for International Development (DFID).

In a written complaint to the higher authorities, the All Pakistan General Books Association revealed that the books procurement contacts for the libraries of selected over 400 schools in Punjab through foreign funds have been given to a few selected publishers by ignoring the over 100 well-known and experienced publishers. Due to which billions of rupees of funds from a British organisation called the Department for International Development (DFID) have been lost.

The amount was provided to the Department of Schools Education for the purchase of books and the renovation of libraries. The complaint further revealed that the books being bought from the favourite publishers do not meet the educational standards. The association has also demanded immediate action in this regard.

The Express Tribune learnt that a firm engaged in the purchase of library books was actually a video production house.

The company was awarded a tender as a consultancy firm for the selection of library and school books allegedly selected publications of a partner organisation.

A production company established in 2016 was hired as a consultancy firm and awarded the contract to supply books to 440 school libraries. It was authorised to select books for the libraries of government schools too.

Furthermore, a company of British origin was awarded the contract in its chosen currency.

According to the Project Monitoring and Implementation Unit (PMIU), the list of books prepared by the firm was approved in a process presided over by Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas.

The DFID had issued a grant of £350 million to the Punjab government. Reportedly, Rs432 million was earmarked for the acquisition of library books and furniture for the public schools.

The Punjab chief minister has reportedly hinted that a high-level inquiry would be conducted to ascertain the facts.

The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) Managing Director (MD) Roy Manzoor said the board has nothing to do with the purchase of books for school libraries. “Its job is to produce and provide free textbooks to students in public schools and the production of the textbooks sold in the market.”

A source in the Schools Education Ministry confirmed that Dr Murad Raas had visited London last year to seek foreign funding for the procurement of books for public schools.

Although his visit was significant in terms of educational reforms, he did not share details in this regard.

The office of Punjab minister for school education stated that the total amount allocated for rehabilitation of libraries and supply of books under the Punjab School Construction and Rehabilitation Programme is Rs432 million, out of which Rs330 million is allocated to be spent on the supply of books.

It further stated that two-envelope bidding was adopted for the tender and the deadline for the bids was June 30.

“A total of 78 bids were received from various publishers, printers and vendors in response to advertisements, which are currently undergoing a technical evaluation process,” it underscored.

A spokesperson for the ministry said the 849 books selected for all school libraries belonged to a total of 70 publishers.

Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Hina Pervez Butt has also submitted a resolution demanding an inquiry into the purchase of library books for schools.

Private publishers are normally selected for projects on the basis of their experience and expertise in the procurement process, reputation and financial stability.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2020.

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