KARACHI, Aug 18: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has purchased two white lions from a private contractor at a price around 10 times higher than the one at which he acquired the pair of big cats, it emerged on Thursday.
Conservatives that Dawn spoke to felt certain that an inquiry should be instituted into what appeared to be a shady deal.
Sources told Dawn that the pair of Panthera Leo had cost the contractor less than Rs1 million. The KMC, however, purchased the carnivorous mammals for Rs10 million.
It should be found out among whom the difference of amount was shared, they demanded.
KMC senior director for zoo Mohammad Rehan Khan insisted that the purchase process was completely transparent and all the relevant government rules had been followed.
Responding to Dawn queries, he said 3B Enterprises (Kamran Ahmed) was granted the contract because it had offered the lowest rates (Rs10 million).
The sources said that the contractor had purchased the lion and lioness in the name of Karachi Zoo from Zoological Live Animal Suppliers of Plot No 209 Norman Road, Westpark, Bapsfontein, Gauteng, South Africa for $4,000 (roughly Rs400,000) in the mid of July.
They explained that the animals were booked by the South African firm for Karachi Zoo, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, CS&R, Nishtar Road, Karachi, West Pakistan, through Thai Airways International and put on board from O.R. Tambo International Airport.
Packed in two crates with a gross weight of around 499.5 kilos — a 173-centimetre-long, 66-cm-wide and 143-cm-high crate of the lion weighing around 272 kilos and a 164-cm-long, 62-cm-wide and 134-cm-high crate of the lioness weighing around 227 kilos — their travel expenses were around 29,716 South African Rand (ZAR), the sources said.
They noted that the fare (at the rate of 48.95 ZAR per kilo) and other charges were 24,450 ZAR and over 4,565 ZAR, respectively. One ZAR is equal to over 11 Pakistani rupees. A five per cent customs duty on the import of lions would be around Rs20,000, they added.
If all these expenses were calculated, they would be around Rs763,667, the sources said.
Even if some other expenses were incurred by the contractor, the pair of the white lions would have cost less than Rs1 million, they added.
The KMC, however, purchased these lions for Rs10 million — roughly 10 times higher than their actual cost.
Responding to Dawn queries, Rehan Khan said the KMC had published advertisements for animal procurement in the newspapers. In response, he added, some people submitted their proposals and after evaluation the contract was given to the lowest bidder — 3B Enterprises, which had quoted Rs10 million.
He insisted that the Sindh Public Procurement Regularity Authority Rules had been observed and the process was completely transparent.
Replying to a question, he said that he did not know the real or market price of the white lions and reiterated that the contract had been given to the lowest bidder in accordance with the rules.
He added that if someone came up with some concrete evidence that the white lions were worth less, the matter could be probed. The KMC did not want to waste public money, he remarked.
In reply to another question, he said the payment had not yet been made to the contractor as he had not submitted the mandatory NOC / permit, which is issued by the federal government.
Under contract conditions, the contractor had to arrange all the required documents and permission before being paid the contract amount, he added.
He explained that all the legal and government formalities had to be fulfilled by the contractor. The KMC only issued a kind of introductory letter to the relevant government departments / organisations informing them that the lions were being imported for the Karachi Zoo and that the 3B Enterprises was the contractor that had to provide the lions, he added.
Mr Khan said that the NOC / permission from the Sindh wildlife department was already available with the KMC, while process was under way to get an NOC / permission from the federal government. But all these efforts were being made by the contractor, and not by the KMC or its staffers, he reiterated.
It is worth noting here that some time back, the Lahore zoo was also in the process of purchasing big cats from a contractor at an exorbitant cost but when the issue was highlighted in the media, not only was the deal cancelled but action was taken against those found involved in the shady deal. The contractor was trying to use fraudulent means to get the customs clearance, but the customs confiscated the big cats and handed over them to the Lahore zoo free of cost after the issue was highlighted in the media.
However, things do not move as smoothly in Karachi. Here the then city district government had purchased four elephants — which had actually been gifted to children of Karachi for educational purposes by the Tanzanian government — for Rs10 million each from contractor Irfan Ahmed, who is Kamran Ahmed’s relative. Though the issue was highlighted in the media, nothing happened. Sindh Local Bodies Minister Agha Siraj Durrani on the floor of the assembly while responding to a question had said that the deal was transparent and no irregularity had been committed.