23 August, 2014 / Shawwal 26, 1435

Turkish power ship. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: If NAB investigations are to be believed, two of the five Rental Power Projects (RPPs) caused the national exchequer a loss of only Rs51.78 million. However, some NAB officials and other critics reject the figure as ‘peanuts’.

According to the National Accountability Bureau, the small amount had sent a legislator of PML-N and another of PML-Q running to the Supreme Court which has since been huffing and puffing over the loss of billions of rupees.

Former deputy prosecutor general of NAB Khawaja Azhar Rashid and some others have described the Rs51m figure as “peanuts” and point out that if the amount is paid back by the 54 accused in the RPP case each of them would have to pay less than Rs1m.

NAB officials claim that the measly estimate is the result of deliberately flawed investigations.

The estimate was made in two investigation reports completed by NAB and submitted to the court last month.

According to reports, the 54 accused -- including Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf -- have caused losses of Rs31.03m and Rs20.43m by granting permission to the RPPs in Piranghaib, Multan, and Sahuwal, Sialkot, respectively.

According to NAB sources, three more investigation reports are in the pipeline, which will contain similar estimates of losses.

They claim that the low estimates are being deliberately projected to provide the accused an easy exit route.

NAB rules allow people accused under the bureau’s ordinance to pay back the amount lost or embezzled or a part of it and win an acquittal.

The SC ordered NAB to prepare references in the RPPs scam case and the bureau assigned three officials to investigate the cases of the five RPPs.

Such references or investigation reports are documents on the basis of which NAB prosecutes accused in accountability courts.

Asgher Khan was assigned the investigation into Multan RPP involving Techno E. Power (TEP) and Sialkot RPP involving Pakistan Power Resources (PPR).

Kamran Faisal, whose mysterious death has added heat to the RPP case, was investigating into the power projects at Gaddu and Naudero. Investigation into the fifth RPP, Naudero II, has been assigned to another official.

According to the sources, the investigation report about the Multan and Sialkot projects has missed important points.

According to the report, in June 2009 US$11.5 million were initially approved to the TEP and US$14.5 million to the PPR as advance at the rate of 7 per cent of the project cost. But, the rate of advance payment was increased to 14 percent in August.

After the court intervened and ordered the companies to return the amount paid in advance, both the RPPs refunded the amount. But, sources claim that the power companies which had undertaken the projects evaded penalties.

They said that under the contract for generating electricity the RPPs had to start production within three months after receiving the advance payment. In case of failure they were bound to pay $286 per day to the government.

In the settlement agreement, the private firms and the power companies deliberately ignored the condition and the investigators also did not include it in their findings, they claimed.

The sources said the settlement between the power companies and the private firms for the recovery of the advance payment was also made in violation of the NAB ordinance.

“Rules allow recovery only through voluntary return or plea bargain involving NAB but the RPPs returned the amount to the government after directly negotiating and signing agreements with state-owned power companies like the GENCO,” they said.

Had the rules been followed, they said, the agreement should have been negotiated and signed with NAB. Instead the money went to Wapda via its power generation companies.

The NAB report highlights and says that on Sept 14, 2010, the ministry of water and power allowed the RPPs to sign off the agreement “on mutually acceptable conditions between the Central Power Generation Company Limited and the sponsors”.

However, the report does not say that it is a violation of the rules and neither does it point out that the sidelining of NAB may have led to return of only a small amount.

Khawaja Mohammad Asif, a PML-N legislator and one of the petitioners in RPPs case, said that the real loss could be assessed only if the original RPP deal and the settlement between the RPPs and Wapda had been audited by renowned audit firms.

He said the court should also take up this issue because the NAB investigators were working under pressure of senior officials who did not want to prosecute the accused.

Raja Amir Abbas, the counsel of the NAB investigation team, said the bureau had submitted its findings to the apex court which would take notice of any flaws in the report.

He said the trial court would also detect flaws when the RPP case came in the Accountability Court.

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