PAC voices concerns over sale of substandard ghee at utility stores

Committee warns of audit performance of USC, chair says production order of Khawaja Asif to be issued in next meeting


Saqib Virk December 31, 2020
People wait in queues outside a utility store to buy sugar at subsidised rate in Rawalpindi. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:

Lawmakers on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) expressed concern on Wednesday over the complaints regarding sale of substandard food items at the Utility Stores and directed the industries secretary to investigate the complaints and submit its report to the committee within a month.

In a meeting, with PAC Chairman Rana Tanvir Hussain in the chair, the committee warned of conducting the performance audit of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC). The chair noted that the USC was an important institution and there was a need for improving its services.

The committee examined the audit paras of the USC for 2019-20. The committee expressed concern over the complaints regarding sale of substandard food items at the utility stores and directed the industries and production secretary to investigate the complaints.

Committee member Noor Alam Khan raised the issue of the sale of substandard ghee at the utility stores. He said that the sale of substandard ghee was also going on in the Parliament Lodges. Rana Tanveer Hussain said that the USC was not performing well.

Audit officials told the committee that two audits had been conducted. They informed the committee that the USC bought ghee from three companies without the tendering process, adding that they officials even could not provide fitness certificate of product.

For four years, the Punjab Food Authority had been declaring products of these companies unfit for human consumption. Another committee member, Ibrahim Khan, said that action should be taken against those responsible.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules were violated. He pointed out that there were financial irregularities to the tune of Rs699 million, called for fixing responsibility.

Riaz Fatyana said that this institution had failed, adding that utility stores were also being closed. He called for a separate inquiry into the sale of substandard material, while Syed Hussain Tariq proposed a special performance audit.

Malik Amir Dogran said that this institution had become a hotbed of corruption, adding that

great efforts were made in the last two years to improve this institution. The chair directed that the matter should be investigated and a report should be submitted to the committee within 30 days. He also directed that ghee must not be sold until a fitness certificate was issued.

During the meeting, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed raised the issue of arrest of committee member Khawaja Asif and called for issuance of his production order. The committee chairman said that he would be called in the next meeting.

The meeting was also attended by National Assembly members Malik Muhammad Dogar, Riaz Fatyana, Noor Alam Khan, Khawaja Sheraz Mehmood, Muhammad Ibrahim, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Syed Naveed Qamar, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Iqbal Muhammad Ali and Mushahid Hussain Sayed.

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