Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf appeared before the National Accountability Bureau on Friday over allegations that he had accepted kickbacks in Rental Power Projects (RPPs), while serving as minister for water and power.
In the questioning session which lasted 30 minutes, the former premier denied allegations against him. Taking an offensive stance, he told the investigating officers that the allegations levelled against him were without any concrete evidence and had damaged his reputation.
“The former premier denied receiving any kickbacks in the rental power projects,” said a NAB official. The NAB investigators had earlier summoned Ashraf to appear before the bureau on Tuesday over the Naudero II Rental Power plant, one of the 12 RPPs, which he failed to comply citing ill health as a reason.
Ashraf, as the minister for water and power, was accused of accepting kickbacks in awarding the 50 MW Naudero II project contract to a foreign company which failed to produce electricity for the government to purchase.
“Enough evidence against the accused was necessary to file references in the accountability court otherwise the chances of conviction were slim,” said a NAB official who added that at least 70% evidence was mandatory to get a conviction against an accused in the court which was still unavailable to investigating team.
However, Ashraf along with all other accused in the case were barred from leaving the country. Their names were put on Exit Control List. NAB were required to complete investigations against Ashraf and co-accused prior to May 27—deadline given to the bureau by Supreme Court for completing the probe and filing references against the accused in the accountability courts.
Ashraf was accused of receiving kickbacks from several foreign companies for rental power projects disregarding the fact that the power plants would sell expensive electricity to the government. Against the rules, the former minister also recommended release of advance money to the plants which was materialised after a heads up from the former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Following investigations, the NAB estimated that the RPPs owed Rs22 billion to the government besides damages. The NAB managed to recover Rs5 billion of the amount while the rest was still unpaid.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2013.