Hundreds of ghost employees in the provincial education department have successfully claimed illegal bills, amounting to over Rs200 million in 2013 alone, in collusion with the Sindh accountant-general’s (AG) office.
The purported ‘arrear bills’ in the name of the Sindh education department’s alleged employees were said to be passed by the AG without prior approval of the department’s principal accounting officer – a post superintended by the department’s additional chief secretary, Dr Fazlullah Pechuho.
In order to curb rampant corruption, provincial education minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, after assuming charge in 2013, had directed the AG not to endorse any arrear bills, except for monthly salaries, without receiving the education department’s authorisation.
“The annual embezzlement in budgetary allocations to the provincial education department goes unchecked with the connivance of the AG and some education department officials,” wrote Karachi director of school education Abdul Wahab Abbasi in a letter to AG Ahsan Ali Kehar, dated January 20. The letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, included a record of misappropriated amounts given to at least 247 ghost employees in the education department.
“Since I assumed charge as the Karachi director of school education on March 13, 2014, I regret to state that the flow of irregularities in the Sindh AG has not stopped despite repeated correspondence with your office,” Abbasi stated. “Billions of rupees are being misappropriated and embezzled.”
When approached by The Express Tribune, Abbasi confirmed the authenticity of the letter. “The AG office is liable for embezzling taxpayers’ money through bogus arrear bills being approved in the names of employees who do not even exist in the education department,” he said. “Despite repeated warnings, the AG does not seem to be paying any heed.”
He explained that the AG office kept a check on the department’s budgeted amounts till the end of each financial year. “When they find that the money — and I am talking about millions and billions of rupees — is going to relapse to the provincial government due to non-utilisation, the AG officials claim it through illegal bills in the name of ghost employees,” Abbasi said.
The AG office, he added, encouraged many education department employees to help them by offering them a 50 per cent share in the results of their corruption. “Without seeking authorisation on the arrear bills from the provincial education department, the cheques were issued in the names of fake persons.”
In his letter, Abbasi had asked Kehar to send the details of all purported arrear bills approved by his office along with proper justification and approval of the competent authority.
For his part, the Sindh AG blamed the education department. “Before pointing fingers at the Sindh AG office, they should control the mafia within the education department,” said Kehar, while talking to The Express Tribune. “We receive the letters, duly signed by the relevant education department officials, authorising the AG office to proceed with the approval of the letter-bearer’s bills.”
Later, he added, the education department’s financial signing authorities refuse to recognise their signatures. Yet, he accepted the possibility of his staff’s collusion in the embezzlement.
“My office requires more specific data from the education department so that we can take action against the staffers who are allegedly involved in misappropriation,” said Kehar. “The education department fails to identify the culprits and we cannot take blind action based on their accusations.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2015.