The Rs2 billion subsidy to Utility Stores Corporation (USC) for Ramazan may not be providing ‘relief’ to consumers and instead ending up in the pockets of the retailer’s staffers, it was alleged on Saturday.
A Senate body accused the USC authorities of adulteration of food items stocked at its stores during Ramazan in a scam amounting to roughly Rs30 million.
USC Managing Director Sultan Mahmood came under fire during a hearing of the Senate industries committee, chaired by Senator Ishaq Dar.
Senator Illyas Ahmed Bilour, a member of the committee, accused the USC management for alleged involvement in providing adulterated gram flour (baisan) and other commodities at its outlets during Ramazan, in a possible scam amounting to Rs30 million.
Bilour, during the meeting, also handed over a packet of gram flour to have it tested from a laboratory and demanded that culprits working in USC ought to be taken to task.
The Senate body was shocked to discover that the USC had never tested its commodities to ensure that they are free of adulteration and health hazards.
“This is a huge scam that needs to be investigated,” Bilour said, adding that it was unfortunate to have a state-owned institution involved in an adulteration scam during Ramazan.
Checked, not tested
MD USC Sultan Mahmood said they “check samples of commodities to ensure they are free of adulteration” but added that the commodities are never tested at laboratories.
Mahmood said the USC itself prepared about 2,300 tonnes of gram flour at mills where adulteration is ‘out of question.’ Another eight hundred tonnes was purchased from the market which might have traces of adulteration, he said.
Members of the senate body expressed their concerns over the revelation, saying the supplied items should be checked randomly and tested from laboratories.
Mahmood said the government had given a subsidy of Rs2 billion to provide food items at subsidised rates during Ramazan but “more may be required.”
The commodities at utility stores were enough to meet requirements till August 20, he said.
“We have also made arrangements to meet any shortfall of food items at utility stores arising after August 20,” he added. He said the USC wanted to open another 2,000 outlets across the country that would cost Rs3.6 billion.
Of this, half the bill would be footed by the federal government whereas the USC would arrange for the remaining amount. The MD said that the USC was exempted from public procurement regulatory authority rules.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.
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