Mechanical tandoors rife with corruption

PSIC official accused of irregularities in the process of approval and installation of mechanical tandoors.


Anwer Sumra November 30, 2010

LAHORE: There have been several complaints of irregularities in the process of approval and installation of mechanical tandoors (MTs), a part of the Sasti Roti Scheme.

All the complaints concern Syed Ali Haider Shah, the Punjab Small Industries Co-operation (PSIC) joint director (Accounts), who is the coordinator of the Sasti Roti Authority (SRA), a number of officials requesting anonymity said.

Earlier, in December 2008, the Punjab government had established the SRA headed by Hanif Abbasi, an MNA of the PML-N.

The chairman appointed Ali Haider Shah, as the coordinator who was given the powers to grant and approve the installation of MTs.

In October 2009, the Finance department released Rs62 million for the installation of 200 mechanical tandoors across the province to provide rotis at the rate of Rs2 until June 2011. The funds for which were placed at the disposal of PSIC because Ali Haider Shah is a crony of Hanif Abbasi, they alleged.

On the directions of the Punjab government, PSIC outlined technical specifications of MTs and tenders were published. Out of the five firms that applied, four Gujranwala-based firms were declared pre-qualified.

In January 2010, a committee headed by Hanif Abbasi fixed the acquisition price of a MT at Rs235,000 along with mixer, against the market rate of Rs170,000, alleged one manufacturer who requested anonymity. The PSIC then invited applications for getting interest-free loans to install MTs, following which 162 individuals applied. The authority, on the recommendations of regional directors, approved 100 applicants. The amount was placed at the disposal of two manufacturers known to be close to Ali Haider Shah, alleged manufacturers.

Ayubul Hassan, a manufacturer, alleged that Ali was receiving a commission from the manufactures who were given purchase orders. He further alleged that during pre-qualification, it had been decided that each firm would be given an order of 50 MTs “but now only two have the orders,” he said.

Ayub said the mechanical tandoors manufactured by both the approved manufacturers were sub-standard. “One of the firms, M/s Trade Technical International, is bogus,” Ayub alleged.

An official of the PSIC, requesting anonymity, said that as many as 80 mechanical tandoors had been installed in the province. He said PSIC handed over the loan amount after regional directors sanctioned the applications. The regional directors pay the amount to the manufacturers, the official said, adding that no hard cash was being handed over to those who seek loans.

Haji Munawar Hussain, owner of a mechanical tandoor, said that he had acquired the tandoor at Rs185,000. “The PSIC gave me a loan of the same amount,” he said, adding that he was not aware that the tandoor was being priced at Rs235,000. “I deposit a Rs5,000 monthly installment to the PSIC,” he added.

Haider refuted all allegations of corruption and nepotism, claiming that they came from “jealous colleagues”. “The process is transparent and all manufacturers are given orders according to their capacity. There is no question of abuse of authority,” he said. About the camaraderie with the chairman, Haider said that Abbasi and he shared a good relationship “on account of my performance and commitment”. Hanif Abbasi was contacted but he refused to comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2010.

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