We often witness cases of, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Until a few days ago at the utility stores, people were allowed to buy sugar only if they bought other items too, mostly shampoo. Large-scale and mini-scale corruptions in government organisations keep on emerging with disgusting regularity. At a recent meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, it was revealed that the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) has suffered a loss of Rs680 million in the period 2015-2020. Only half a dozen of ‘ingenious’ employees alone have inflicted a loss of Rs21 million on the USC. So far one-third of the misappropriated amount has been recovered. Another Rs150 million have evaporated in 30 of the 34 regions of the organisation.
The Federal Investigation Agency has been entrusted with conducting investigations into the embezzlement of funds. The agency is probing 96 cases of corruption in the USC. The latest audit report has found a comparatively small amount of misappropriation of the USC funds though, the number of inquiries shows that corruption is deeper in the organisation, which is meant to provide people with daily-use items at lower prices. Another negative aspect of the issue is that the FIA has been carrying out its task at a snail’s pace, on the plea that it is too occupied with investigations into the sugar scandal.
The PAC has given vent to its annoyance with the performance of the FIA and NAB over the sluggish progress in the investigations into USC corruption cases. Inordinate delays in probing corruption cases provide the culprits time to evade the due process of law, and thus all efforts to catch them come to nought. This prolonged process of inquiry inflicts severe harm on the exchequer and resultantly on the common people. Only the masses suffer in consequence of the tiring procedures of investigations and procedures. It is a cruel irony that we all see thievery but thieves remain invisible and elusive.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2021.