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LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau has finally decided to launch a thorough probe into affairs of the 56 public sector companies formed by Shahbaz Sharif administration in Punjab for their alleged involvement in corruption.

Taking notice of a number of complaints against these companies, NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal ordered the bureau’s Lahore head Shahzad Saleem to hold an inquiry into alleged irregularities, recruitment in violation of procurement rules and merit, nepotism, non-completion of various projects on time, lack of performance and regular audit and non-transparent procedure of tendering in these companies which come under direct supervision of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

In a statement issued here on Saturday, the chairman directed the officials concerned that these companies should not be stopped from working till enough evidence was gathered against them. He also directed that legal course should be followed during the process of investigation.

None to be barred from working

Sources said the NAB would try to complete the probe at the earliest. “Shahbaz Sharif, being the chairman of these companies, may face the music if such illegalities are proved during the NAB probe,” an official source told Dawn.

Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan did not respond to the Dawn’s queries in this regard.

A case against these companies is also pending in the Lahore High Court. According to petitioners, the Shahbaz administration had established 56 public sector companies some 9 years ago on the pretext of “good governance”. “Over Rs150bn were spent on these companies from exchequer. This model of governance is the brainchild of Shahbaz Sharif who is impressed by the Turkish model of governance and is following it here. It is the main reason Turkish people are hired as consultants in various companies and now they have been working in various mega projects,” a petitioner said.

He also contended all these public sector companies had failed to perform. “Just in 2016, the number of companies increased from 6 to 56. These companies had expenditures of Rs250bn but no audit of these companies was ever carried out except one for performance audit by the auditor general of Pakistan,” he said, alleging that even these companies never published their annual audit reports while their officials had been drawing huge salaries, besides perks and privileges.

The next hearing is due on Nov 28.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2017