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ISLAMABAD: Auditors have found poor bookkeeping practices and blatant irregularities in the disbursement of a Rs695.6 million grant, given to Islamabad police to counter the sit-in by opposition parties in 2014.

The report found several instances of doubtful and unjustified payments and has recommended inquiries and recovery of the amount from those responsible.

According to the report, the office of the senior superintendent of police (Headquarters) provided a statement that showed that Rs695.6m was spent on security arrangements and other heads during the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) sit-in outside Parliament House in 2014.

According to the breakdown provided by police, Rs326.8m was spent on food, Rs158.8m on hiring vehicles, Rs148.9m on fuel charges, Rs29.5m on security equipment, Rs26.5m for miscellaneous expenses and Rs5m was paid as rent for residential buildings, the report stated.

Auditors flay police for depriving exchequer of federal excise duty refunds, making cash payments to vendors without following rules

The audit observed that the entire amount of Rs695.5m was disbursed through 30 cheques drawn in the name of the drawing and disbursing officer (DDO), but neither were copies of those cheques available, nor were they recorded in the cash book.

In the absence of the cash book or any acknowledgement of the money spent, the authenticity of the expenditure cannot be ascertained, the report stated.

According to police, when PTI and PAT announced their plans to stage a sit-in, an emergency-like situation developed in the city.

The finance division was asked for supplementary grants through the Ministry of Interior, it stated, adding that following approval of the request, the amount was sanctioned by the deputy financial adviser, who also permitted the withdrawal of funds in advance in order to meet emergency needs.

Police maintained that all procurements were made under Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Rules 42-C (clause-v), and pointed out that under the General Financial Rules (GFR), after funds are withdrawn from the treasury, they cannot be kept in any bank account.

Therefore, police claimed it was not possible to make payments through crossed cheques, but maintained that all payments were made after proper scrutiny, and that every receipt had been verified by the additional inspector general and SP (Headquarters).

However, auditors refused to accept this account, since the expenditure was not recorded in the cash book.

Food items

Regarding the Rs326.8m spent on food items, the audit observed that police had hired the services of 16 firms without adopting an open tender, and that payments were made in cash instead of crossed cheques, which were not verified by the DDO.

The report also called attention to the non-recovery of federal excise duty worth Rs53m on food services, stating that the SSP (Headquarters) Islamabad made a cash payment of Rs353.2m for food and catering services rendered by the various firms.

The cash payments were made without obtaining the invoices mentioning excise duty as per the provisions of the Federal Excise Act 2005, the report stated.

Vehicles

Referring to Rs101m paid to Khushab Sargodha Transport Service and Yasir Mehmood Transport for the hiring of vehicles, the audit observed that this was done without open tendering, adding that a summary of vehicles containing the total number of vehicles hired and the expenditure incurred on each category of vehicle was not provided.

The audit also cast doubts on the cash payments made for water tankers, saying that the expenditure incurred was irregular and unjustified.

But while police insisted that the record of all vehicles hired during the sit-in was properly maintained, auditors did not deem this tenable because no such record was provided to them for scrutiny.

The audit was also of the view that since police did not obtain invoices containing excise duty, it deprived the government of its due share of revenue, amounting to Rs21.9m.

Containers

In their observations on the Rs42.4m paid to Taha Enterprises as rent for containers, the audit observed that while the containers were deployed from the second week of August 2014 at various points in Islamabad, the management invited tenders on November 10, 2014.

The audit report said that Taha Enterprises was retroactively awarded the contract for supply of containers and cranes despite the fact that this equipment had already been engaged three months prior to the advertisement.

Three containers were reported burnt and a payment of Rs1.05m was made in lieu of those, but since the contractor had not lodged an FIR, the claim could not be justified, the report stated.

It added that the invoices submitted by the contractors did not have any serial numbers, which created doubt and made it difficult to ascertain the authenticity of the claims.

Another interesting objection was raised over an amount of Rs1.2m, paid to Ajmal and Sons, as auditors observed that the service provider was not a general order supplier but a supplier of crushed stones and sand.

Lodging

According to police, 74 officers came from various cities and stayed at different hotels, lodges and guest houses in Islamabad, but auditors said that their movement orders or any other documentary evidence in support of the expenditure was not provided.

Regarding the expenditure of Rs4.5m on hotel accommodations, the audit observed that a payment of Rs1.3m was shown as being made to Mujahid Plaza, but it was not actually paid since the documents provided in support of the payment showed it as a balance payment.

Auditors also said that all the invoices provided were without general sales tax.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2017