KARACHI: The National Accountability Bureau on Saturday filed before the administrative judge of the accountability courts a reference against former provincial information minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and others for committing corruption in the award of advertisements of provincial government’s awareness campaigns in electronic media involving over Rs5 billion.

The reference, sent by the NAB chairman, said that the investigation was conducted regarding corruption and corrupt practices in the advertisement awareness campaigns on TV and FM channels between July 2013 and June 2015 and it was found that the accused acted in connivance with each other resulting in a loss of Rs3,279,177,029 to the national exchequer.

It was revealed in the investigation that an amount of Rs5,766,479,766 was paid to seven advertisement companies in violation of the Sindh Public Procurement Rules 2010.

The reference alleged that the former information minister illegally approved releasing of official advertisements to electronic media for awareness campaigns through the so-called pre-qualified advertising agencies without due competition.

It was alleged that Sharjeel Memon issued contracts to favourite advertising agencies at exorbitant rates even without confirming the market rates.

Besides, the former information minister directly approved the media plan submitted by the advertising agencies.

Besides the former information minister, former provincial information secretary Zulfiqar Ali Shalwani, deputy directors of information department Anita Baloch, Mansoor Ahmed Rajput and Mohammed Yousuf Kaboro, Syed Masood Hashmi of the Orient Communication (PVT) Ltd, Gulzar Ali and Salman Mansoor of Adarts and Inam Aktar of Evernew Concepts were among the 17 accused cited in the reference.

It was alleged that advertising agencies suppressed the invoices issued by the media and showed much higher amounts, while as per settled practice advertising agencies were entitled to get only 15 per cent agency commission against the total bill.

The reference said that Evernew Concepts (Pvt) Ltd was paid Rs4,154,585,676, Orient Communication Rs320,062,994, Adarts Karachi Rs317,338,970, Connect Marketing Rs310,474,132, Value Added Marketing Rs205,827,587, Xnine Communications Rs374,546,739 and Insync Advertisement was paid Rs83, 643,668.

The reference said that the accused belonging to advertising agencies namely Connect Marketing, Value Added marketing Services, Xnine Communications and Insync Advertisement had not been named in the reference as they had already entered into Voluntarily Return (VR) during the course of inquiry.

According to the reference, six accused have already obtained protected bail from the Sindh High Court, while 11 other accused, including Sharjeel Memon, are absconding in the case.

The former information minister, who is stated to be living in self-exile either in Dubai or London for the past over 18 months, had earlier moved the SHC through separate petitions, one seeking protective bail and the other for removal of his name from the exit control list.

The PPP MPA from Hyderabad stated in the petitions, filed late last year through his counsel, that since the law-enforcement and anti-corruption agencies had begun a crackdown on politicians, he had come to know through the media that NAB had initiated an inquiry against him with regard to alleged corruption during his recent tenure as information minister.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2016

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