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— AFP/file
— AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: The defence ministry could not recover Rs1.53 billion embezzled by its 81 army and civilian officers even after about two decades.

On Monday the defence ministry representative told the sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they could only recover Rs29 million.

According to the representative, majority of the ministry officials avoided penalties and legal action against them through litigations.

These details came to light during the scrutiny of a special audit report at the meeting of a sub-committee of the PAC. The scam took place during 1992-97 and was uncovered by the audit authorities in April 2001.

A defence ministry representative informed the meeting that the 81 military and civilian officials were investigated and found guilty of having embezzled Rs1.53 billion from the accounts of the Military Engineering Services (MES). This sum was siphoned off thanks to fake purchases, fictitious spending and fraudulent payments.

The amount had been embezzled during 1992-97

Explaining its efforts to recover the amount, Akmal Hussain, the chief engineer of the defence ministry, told the committee that Rs29.7 million were recovered from the accused officers. “In addition, two plots worth Rs6 million each in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Islamabad were confiscated.”

According to the details provided in the audit, the 11 officials who were involved in the embezzlement have died; 33 civilian officials challenged the proceedings against them and were exonerated by the Federal Service Tribunal (FST). The defence ministry, however, has filed an appeal against the FST decision, which is pending. Hussain added that the money had been recovered from the rest.

Additional secretary defence Air Vice Marshal Imran Khalid told the committee that eight officers were dismissed from service without any post-service benefit due to the financial scandal.

He explained that the two DHA plots were confiscated from Colonel Jahangir Alam and Mohammad Ijaz. “However, Lt-Col Mohammad Idrees, another accused, fled abroad though the ministry of interior had been asked to bring him back through Interpol.” He added that Rs75 million had been recovered from Col Idrees.

The audit officials, however, pointed out that no money could be recovered from those who had died or retired.

Under the rules, in such cases, money can be recovered from a retired officer within 12 months of retirement while in this case the accused officials had retired years ago.

The PAC sub-committee, headed by Rana Afzal Hussain, directed the defence ministry to identify those officials who failed to take steps to recover the money.

“What action has been taken against those who failed to recover the money within time,” asked PAC member Shahida Akhtar Ali.

The committee also expressed its dissatisfaction over the slow pace of recovery. In this regard, Rana Afzal commented: “It is not acceptable that after years you people simply recover Rs29 million and two plots when Rs1.53 billion were looted.”

Apart from this, the committee deferred discussing a number of audit paras after the defence ministry officials pointed out that the matters related to these paras were sub judice.

“You should constitute a committee to determine the role of those officials whose lethargic attitude resulted in the litigation,” Rana Afzal added.

The committee directed the defence ministry to take up these audit objections in the departmental accounts committee and expedite the process for their settlement.

The audit authorities also pointed out that unauthorised disposal of and illegal occupation of defence land, illegal and extra expenditures, non-recoveries and loose financial control had caused a loss of Rs800 million to the national exchequer.

The French connection

The audit authorities informed the committee that the defence ministry did not provide them documents related to an audit para about the damage caused to helicopters hired by French filmmakers.

The filmmakers hired two PUMA helicopters from the Army Aviation in January 1987. The helicopters were damaged in an accident. A court of inquiry was held which recommended the recovery of the cost of damage from the users.

However, the audit report revealed that the then chief of general staff decide to write off the loss and not claim any damage.

In 1997, the audit authorities suggested PAC “order an inquiry to fix responsibility for failure to safeguard the state interest.” But it still did not lead to any reimbursement.

The PAC and the departmental accounts committee took up the matter in 2001 and 2014, respectively.

On Monday, when the matter was discussed again, the committee asked the audit authorities to get further details from the defence ministry.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2015

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Comments (14) Closed

IBN E ASHFAQUE Feb 24, 2015 10:04am

Peanuts get over it. Relax nothing will happen to these officials. Most of us are like that. That is why the curse of Allah is on us in the shape of one set of brothers fighting the other, in whatever name. The solution is to practice righteousness and preach it and particularly seek forgiveness from Allah and seek HIS blessings and forgive our friends and relatives even if they hurt us.

Sayyar Khan Feb 24, 2015 10:33am

No military courts.

think_then_speak Feb 24, 2015 10:53am

Defense forces are above suspicion. Long live the army, air force and Pak Navy.

khob Feb 24, 2015 11:19am

Whether it's Pakistan's military or civilian government , when it comes to corruption no other place in the world can claim to have the people with such a 'skill' level and ability to loot the country and get away with it.

Vasan Feb 24, 2015 11:48am

Sounds like whole pumpkin have been hid under a plate of rice!

Pakistan's national security officers seems secured only their retirement funds.

adnan Feb 24, 2015 11:49am

the one who died,gained nothing and one who are alive will gain nothing,how ignorant we are calling our self sophisticated people and still ignorant about lifes realities,may god show us all the right path

Khan-Haqiqi Feb 24, 2015 12:10pm

@thinkthenspeak yeah right they are pure breed of Pakistani hence angels

adnan Feb 24, 2015 12:48pm

thanks for failing again these ppl don't see it coming. NS thinks sitting in opposition benches next time, will be fine. and regular politics. there won't be a next time

Ash Feb 24, 2015 02:18pm

Pak army zinda bad :-)

This country is made only for rich, people who are making money have never ever sacrifice anything for this country not even their even forefathers have never been involved in the Tahreek-a-Pakistan.

They do not know the value of Pakistan.

If other Pak institutes are making money why not Pak Army at the end of the day they are not angels either. The corruption was always there in Pak Army but it never surfaced before so I am not surprise.

This is tip of the inceburg actual level of corruption is hidden. I am sure this investigative committee have already made enough money from these corrupt official and this is the reason they cannot recover anything.

shehryar Feb 24, 2015 02:59pm

Hand them over to military courts

Siraj Ahmed Feb 24, 2015 07:44pm

We all talk about politicians swindling away billions. Why do we not talk about military swindling away our money?

Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali Feb 24, 2015 08:06pm

Yes what about army and other DOD employees. Are they above the laws of Pakistan. I guess they are. If a Lt. colonel can steel 150 million rupees ( 75 million recovered ) and run. How about bringing him back and try him. USA will help if asked. Point is that there are hundreds of thousands of military officers living in Canada and USA with shady past and visit Pakistan as an American citizen.

Junaid Feb 24, 2015 11:02pm

Height of stupidity. We are bothered about money lost almost 20 years back and no one is bothered about the money we are loosing now. Perhaps Audit people will start the audit of 2015 somewhere in 2030.

Ahmer Feb 25, 2015 01:03am

A minor amount in view of the service they render to Pakistan.