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KARACHI: The food department has only one Food Quality Labora­tory in the province, which is yet to become operational and no official has been appointed there, Minister Nisar Ahmad Khuhro informed the legislature on Friday.

He was responding to questions raised by legislators during Question Hour that pertained to the food department in Sindh Assembly’s Friday session that was chaired by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and began one hour and 10 minutes behind its scheduled time of 10am mentioned in the order of the day.

Responding to a question raised by Muttahida Qaumi Movement legislator Heer Soho regarding the staff at the laboratory, the minister said that the government had sanctioned 13 posts — from senior research officer (BPS 18) to peon (BPS 2) — for the Food Quality Laboratory in Landhi in 2013.

However, owing to a ban on recru­it­ments people could not be appoin­ted. However, now the ban had been lifted so the process of recruitment was initiated and hopefully it would be completed, he added.

Replying to another question of her, he said that there were three other such laboratories in Hyderabad, Tando Jam and Rohri, but these were under the agriculture department so he had no knowledge if these were fully operational, or all the posts there had been filled.

The minister could not give a satisfactory response to a question asked by MQM legislator Waqar Shah that with the only food department laboratory in the city being nonoperational and without staff, how the government was ensuring that the wheat flour being purchased by the people from markets was of good quality.

Responding to a question asked by Pakistan Muslim league-Functional legislator Nusrat Seher Abbasi regarding corruption and theft of approximately 30,000 government wheat bags in Kash­more and if any action was taken against culprits, the minister said the statistics she was sharing were not correct and only around 12,000 wheat bags valued at over Rs45 million had been misappropriated in Kashmore by food inspector Mohammad Sharif Malik in 2012-13.

The food inspector had been sacked and the case had been sent to the National Accountability Bureau for recovery of over Rs45 million.

Responding to a question raised by MQM legislator Zafar Kamali that had the amount been recovered from the culprit, the minister said that the NAB had informed the food department in October, 2016, that the amount had not been recovered.

Speaker Durrani did not allow the minister to respond to a question asked by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf legislator Khurram Sherza­man as to how and why a food department official held responsible for bungling / misappropriation by the auditor general of Pakistan had been posted at a top departmental post in Karachi.

Responding to a question by MQM legislator Saifuddin Khalid regarding wheat procurement target and provincial consumption during the year 2009-10, the minister said that target of 1.5 million tonnes was set for the year and over 1.496 million tonnes were procured. He said that the requirement of wheat for the province was around 1.1 million tonnes that year.

A written answer to a question regarding per kilogramme price of wheat flour in 2009-10 says that ex-mill price was Rs29 per kg while Rs30 was the retail price.

The government also provided around Rs600 per 40kg subsidy. It said that while the food department fixed the flour price, its implementation was under the jurisdiction of the district administration.

Speaker Durrani came to the rescue of the minister who could not respond to a question asked by Pakistan Peoples Party legislator Ghulam Qadir Chandio who had asked it was the year 2016 and the question pertained to the year 2009, so the question was that had the department provided the answer to the assembly after six to seven years.

When minister Khuhro could not respond, Speaker Durrani asked the minister to ask the department and then provide the response to Mr Chandio in writing.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2016