As always, the misdemeanours and corruption of any government emerge fully only after a change of guard.
With the recent transfer of power, appalling instances of graft in the previous PPP administration are surfacing. A government audit of the Public Works Department has brought to light the serious transgressions of former premiers Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Yousaf Raza Gilani.
According to a news report published in The Express Tribune, the two former PMs distributed over Rs12 billion earmarked for development schemes to non-elected representatives.
Allegedly, ex-PM Gilani started the practice of distributing money to party notables rather than elected representatives. According to the Director General Audit report, ex-PM Ashraf approved the release of Rs8.8 billion to unelected notables under the Public Works Programme, going against the rules of the Planning Division.
That he did so in the last month of his premiership shows that he feared no retribution. A staggering Rs37.8 billion were distributed to members of the PPP, its allies, other party supporters and relatives, highlighting the outrageous corruption and cronyism extant in the government.
A physical inspection also found that 50 per cent of the Public Works Programmes simply did not exist on the ground, which allowed the embezzlement of over Rs7 billion by officials of the Public Works Department.
The PPP government has been accused time and again of corruption and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been facing allegations of taking kickbacks during the procurement of rental power plants.
Based as they are on a government audit, these revelations must be considered seriously. Even in Pakistan, where one has become used to venal politicians, this constitutes a blatant and unconscionable misuse of power.
What is more distressing is that the money was siphoned from development funds, so that while the “notables” close to those in power became flush with money, the common folk still wait for their roads to be repaired and pipelines to be laid.
Although such reports are only too believable given our politicians’ previous records of abuse of authority, an investigation is needed. Those culpable must be brought to book and the public money must be recovered.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.
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