The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has launched an inquiry into two road projects of former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to identify the people facilitated in the illegal contracts.
According to sources, the anti corruption watchdog recently called planning and development ministry and housing ministry officials and its allied departments to quiz them about the roles of their organisations in facilitating the former premier in fulfilling his wishes.
NAB spokesman Ramzan Sajid confirmed that it was conducting an inquiry into the Mandra- Chakwal and Chakwal-Sohawa road projects, having total cost of Rs9.5 billion.
The bureau sought details from Public Investment Authorisation (PIA) section’s chief Raja Mushtaq, Economic Appraisal section’s chief Dildar Ahmad Bhatti and Transport and Communication section’s chief Munir Anjum.
Confirming that the NAB had called the planning ministry’s officials, the ministry’s spokesman Asif Sheikh said the NAB inquired about the laid down processes and procedures, required to follow for approval of any project.
The sources said the NAB was investigating the basis on which the work for these two projects was awarded, the people who violated the procedures and those who released funds for the execution of the work.
The NAB was also reviewing whether these projects were economically viable or initiated under political compulsions.
Ex-prime minister Ashraf had ordered expansion of two road projects in his constituency NA-51 and got these schemes approved from the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), headed by the then Planning Commis-sion Deputy Chairman Dr
Nadeem ul Haque.
Since the cost of these schemes was over Rs1 billion, instead of seeking final approval from the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC), an anticipatory approval of the ECNEC was obtained from the then finance minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh.
The cost of expansion of the Mandra-Chakwal road (64-kilometre patch) is Rs4.7 billion while Sohawa-Chakwal road’s (66.4km) dualisation cost is Rs4.8 billion. An amount of Rs 2.7 billion has already been spent on these two projects without formal approval from the ECNEC, according to this year’s Public Sector Development Programmes (PSDP) document.
The planning officials informed the NAB that the PIA section did not authorise the releases for the projects as the ECNEC had not approved these schemes.
The expenditures incurred so far on the projects cannot be termed as regular until these projects are approved by the ECNCE, the NAB sources said.
At the time, Javed Malik was the Planning Division secretary. Malik was appointed as agriculture member by the former PM after his retirement in November last year.
Despite the fact that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has already struck down the contracts of these two projects, the planning ministry has set aside Rs280 million for carrying out work on the schemes in the current financial year.
Asif Sheikh said since these projects were located in Punjab, the decision on retaining the schemes or dropping them from the PSDP was to be taken by the Punjab government.
On the basis of a letter written by the then principal secretary to the PM, Ayub Qazi, the Housing, Public Works Department had awarded the contract to the National Logistic Cell (NLC) in October last year for the construction of these roads.
After issuance of a letter from the PM Secretariat, asking to award the contract to the NLC the cost of the projects increased by Rs3.4 billion while its scope remained the same.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.