LAHORE: The Punjab government has taken no action on an inquiry that found financial irregularities worth Rs2.1 billion in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), belying the provincial administration’s claims of clean government.
The Express Tribune has learnt that the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team conducted the inquiry on the orders of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after complaints of alleged corruption involving the director general of the LDA, Omer Rasul (BS-20) and seven other officers. The team found that the LDA had awarded contracts worth Rs2.1 billion in violation of various rules. The inquiry report submitted to the chief minister recommended that the matter be referred to the Anti Corruption Establishment (ACE) so it could register criminal cases against the accused officers.
But the chief minister commented on the report that “the chief secretary may take appropriate necessary action at his end.” The chief minister is the competent authority to allow registration of cases against officers of BS-20 and above, according to Section 8 of ACE Rules, 1985.
Various officers told The Express Tribune that by only referring the case to the chief secretary, the chief minister was showing leniency to the accused officers. The CMIT report recommended action against the accused officers, saying it would discourage corruption in the province.
Rasul denied all charges of corruption. “I will answer the allegations when the government asks me to,” he said.
Punjab government spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rasheed said the inquiry report had been sent to the chief secretary for evaluation and with directions to submit his final recommendations on the matter.
According to documents made available to The Express Tribune, the LDA, on the directions of the then director general, awarded 32 contracts for civil work such as new constructions, improvements and road repairs to the Frontier Works Organisation in violation of the rules. The LDA awarded another 31 contracts to other companies, again in violation of the rules.
The director general of the LDA can provisionally approve schemes costing up to Rs25 million, but if the cost of the scheme exceeds that amount, it is meant to be approved by a board chaired by the city nazim/administrator.
The inquiry team found that Rasul had split the schemes so they did not exceed the Rs25 million limit. This was a violation of Rule 9 of the Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority, which does not allow the splitting or regrouping of procurements.
The inquiry report found other violations too. The ‘technical sanction’ of all civil works was approved without meeting codal formalities. No 10 per cent performance security was obtained from the contractor, as required under the rules. Funds were released to the contractors without approval from the competent authority. Contracts were awarded at exorbitant rates, compared to the rates for similar items offered by other development agencies. This excess in rate ranged from 13 per cent to 180 per cent.
The schemes included the reconstruction of a bridge on a drain in Cantonment; improvement of Main Boulevard, Gulshan-e-Ravi; carpeting of roads in Johar Town; establishment of a one-window cell at the LDA office; development of a model graveyard in Johar Town; development of a centralised biometric attendance system; procurement of information technology equipment; construction of the Ride and Park Plaza in Liberty; and the renovation of LDA Plaza.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.