The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its judgment in the disbursement of Rs47 billion development funds case by former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, with clear intentions of laying down principles for future use of such funds by legislators.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry however allowed executing agencies to pay the money to all those contractors who undertook different schemes through a transparent manner and after submitting due feasibility reports.
“As for the case regarding disbursement of development funds by the former prime minister, the judgment is reserved to be announced later,” the bench noted in a written order.
“Meanwhile, all executing authorities of the schemes initiated out of the Peoples Works Programme-II (PWP-II) allocated funds are directed to examine across the board of all schemes to ascertain whether Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules have been followed strictly and the development works were assigned to contractors in a transparent manner,” the bench, comprising Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, further noted.
The court ordered that funds for all schemes that had been initiated through a transparent manner and by following due procedure, should be released.
The bench also directed executing authorities to examine whether the remaining development work was in the interest of the public; if it wasn’t then the completion of the development work would be subject to approval from competent authority, and funds for such projects should be deposited with the public exchequer.
“The competent authority after examining the development schemes will decide to proceed against the responsible both in civil and criminal matters,” the bench ordered.
Appearing on behalf of seven contractors, undertaking 12 different development schemes in Gujar Khan, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood argued that his clients had obtained contracts after participating in the pre-qualification bids and following transparent process of advertisement, bidding and approval of feasibility reports.
The counsel argued that the contractors had completed 52% of the development work and had nothing to do with how and from where the funds were allocated to them.
The bench, however, did not give any serious consideration to responses from former parliamentarians including Ghias Ahmed Maila, Anwar Ali Cheema, Fozia Behram, Maula Bakhsh Chandio and Mushahid Hussain Sayed, as to how they had received the funds, and where they had utilised the public money.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that he would make arguments of all respondents a part of the detailed judgment.
Earlier, during the course of the hearing, senior advocate Wasim Sajjad representing ex-premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf could not convince the court that the former prime minister, under certain provisions of the constitution, withdrew the funds and allocated to parliamentarians and other notables.
Sajjad contended that allocating funds to elected representatives after they had identified development schemes was an old practice.
Attorney General Muneer A Malik and advocate Khwaja Haris Ahmed, appearing as amicus curiae, said there was no constitutional provision allowing the prime minister to spend development funds other than approved by parliament in the annual budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2013.