Already caught in a web of allegations ranging from mismanagement to financial irregularities and corruption, the dirty laundry of the capital city’s civic agency was aired by a parliamentary watchdog on Tuesday.
While expressing displeasure over the rampant irregularities and corruption in allotment of plots and contracts in the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), to carry out investigation of the civic agency’s affairs.
The PAC, which met with its Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan in the chair, also sought reports from the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) on pending investigations related to the CDA issues.
Land for Park Towers
The PAC directed NAB to investigate the illegal construction of luxury apartments on a piece of prime land in a posh sector of the capital in connivance with CDA officials.
The PAC asked the NAB to quiz three former chairmen of CDA and the owners of Manawa Private Limited, Waheed Qazi and Malik Tahir Mahmood Awan, who constructed the multi-storey Park Towers on the land, giving two months deadline to complete the probe.
Construction work took place between 1999 and 2002, when Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, Khalid Saeed and Mir Laeeq Shah served as successive chairmen of the civic body and allowed construction to continue despite the cancellation of the allotment and a status quo order by the courts restraining illegal occupants from the building.
The involvement of CDA’s officials in the fraud is illustrated by the fact that despite the cancellation of the allotment, they still approved the building plan.
The auditors revealed that the company got the plot in 1992 after paying only 25 per cent of the total cost but refused to pay the remaining amount. Due to non-payment, the CDA Board cancelled the allotment of the plot but did not retake its possession. The construction firm, in connivance with CDA high ups, constructed two towers between 1999 and 2002, the audit works director said.
The member of planning disclosed that on paper, the towers was still CDA property, but actual possession was with dozens of residents. The present value of the building is in billions of rupees.
NAB Operations Director Zahir Shah told the PAC that with the initiation of an inquiry, NAB would immediately stop transfers of the luxury apartments and would also freeze the property if required.
In order to hush up the matter, the CDA conducted an inquiry at that time and held four junior officers responsible.
The PAC was unimpressed by the attitude of current CDA Chairman Farkhand Iqbal, who himself is beleaguered by allegations of abuse of office and corruption, after he refused to disclose the names of the officials and the owners of the firm. The PAC also issued a show cause notice to Member Estate for not coming prepared in the meeting.
To the surprise of the committee, it was revealed that there were 5,182 cases pending in various courts for the last 10 years.
The additional secretary of the Cabinet Division Shahidullah Baig admitted that the CDA’s legal team had failed to deliver. Oddly, the CDA chairman claimed that the civic body’s lawyers were actually working against the interests of the body.
IJ Principal Road
The PAC also referred another case to NAB involving Rs290 million that remains to be recovered from a defaulting contractor hired to develop IJ Principal Road.
The auditors said that in connivance with CDA officials, the contractor, Sikandar Jatoi, offered a bid that was 24 per cent lower than the official rate. After completing only 40 per cent of work, Jatoi’s firm abandoned work altogether.
They added that CDA officials also allowed performance bonds and bank guarantees worth Rs35 million to lapse, providing an escape route to the contractor.
The NAB director said that when the contract was awarded to Jatoi’s firm, the bureau was investigating him for defaulting on $5 million payment against a World Bank-funded project. NAB had already recovered the amount but a separate inquiry against Jatoi was ongoing, Zahir Shah said.
The PAC has also sought a report from the CDA for non-completion of 18 residential towers. The CDA chairman said that due to non-completion of these buildings, the civic agency was suffering an Rs175,000 property tax losses on every transaction as such transfers were taking place on Islamabad Capital Territory stamp paper.
The PAC also directed the CDA to give a report on illegal possession of the Gun Club, with the CDA Planning member telling the auditors that the civic body did not allot land to the Gun Club.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.