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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Thursday noted the slow progress made in the investigation of a Rs1.5 billion scandal in which 13 government departments, including the CDA, failed to fully implement e-governance projects. They purchased hundreds of computers but never switched them on.

The Senate Committee on Information Technology at a meeting observed that for two years the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been probing into what it called the massive irregularities committed in the 13 projects under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of the National Information Technology Board (NITB).

A project of the Ministry of Information Technology, the e-governance programme was started 10 years ago but none of the 13 departments could achieve the full scope of the ambitious initiative. The e-governance initiative promotes a paperless environment in offices.

The inquiry was initiated on a complaint from the IT ministry. Director FIA Dr Mazharul Haq Kakakhel informed the committee that all the 13 cases were being investigated separately. A lack of expertise delayed the investigations by two years. The FIA staff had to be trained and expertise to be hired to make progress, he said.

However, the official added that an inquiry into irregularities committed in the project in the CDA had been completed. The FIA has fixed responsibility on four senior officials for failing to implement the Rs140 million e-governance project, he added.

Mr Kakakhel said the FIA had recommended the registration of an FIR against the executive director NITB, (e-services, CDA), Syed Raza Abbas Shah, project director NITB, (e-services, CDA), Faisal Kamran, consultant IT and management division, CDA, Dr Athar Manzoor and Atif Raees of the LMKR. He said cases would be registered against four officials of the CDA by next week.

“These officials are responsible for the purchase of computer equipment worth millions of rupees and not utilising them, wasting the public money.”

The committee was informed that FIA’s forensic team had been inspecting 45 servers and 500 computers and printers and its paraphernalia, including software at the CDA premises. Warranties for the purchased items had all expired. The inability of the CDA to utilise both the software and hardware within the warranty period caused losses to the national exchequer, the official said.

Mr Kakakhel told the committee that about 70pc of the Rs1.5 billion had been spent on software and hardware. The remaining amount was spent on hiring consultants for the e-governance projects.

The official said the FIA now had developed the capacity to investigate all the cases and would complete its investigations in a few months. Senator Rehman Malik asked the FIA to interrogate venders and suppliers as well.

“We would also like the FIA to look into the element of sabotage. There could be individuals who did not want to see the CDA progress,” he said. Member Telecom Ministry of Information Technology Mudassar Hussain said resistance to change was one of the main reasons for the failure of the e-governance project.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017