LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday grilled PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza Shahbaz in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company scam, questioning his alleged role in awarding of certain contracts and making appointments despite not being a member of the board of directors.

Hamza’s brother-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf is also being investigated by the bureau for renting out an office in his plaza in Gulberg to the company on exorbitant rates.

“A three-member combined investigation team of NAB Lahore quizzed Hamza for about 90 minutes at its Thokar Niaz Beg office. It asked him to explain in which capacity he chaired numerous meetings of the board of directors of the company as he was not even a member,” a source told Dawn.

He said the team also questioned him about his role in the award of certain contracts of the company and making appointments.

The source said as Hamza could not give satisfactory answers to the investigators, he was handed over a questionnaire to respond to by May 24.

“Hamza Shahbaz could not offer justification for chairing the meetings of Punjab Saaf Pani Company BoD. Several illegalities had been committed in the company’s affairs during the period he looked after it, but he kept insisting before the investigators that he had nothing to do with its affairs,” the source added.

The source said investigation against Hamza was also being conducted in the light of findings from the recently held five former top officials of the company. The suspects, NAB said, with mala fide intentions managed to install 116 water filtration plants in Bahawalpur region on exorbitant rates.

After his appearance before NAB, Hamza admitted that he was not a member of the BoD of the company. “I was not a member. I had attended five meetings of the board that was why NAB summoned me,” he told reporters.

Parrying questions about NAB’s investigations against him, his father and brother-in-law, Hamza said he had gone through NAB’s accountability during the Musharraf regime and was also imprisoned for six months.

“I have appeared before NAB because of the supremacy of law and will appear again before it if summoned.” He also quoted his father as saying that a coffin had no pocket.

The Punjab finance minister, two PML-N MPAs (as members of BoD) and three provincial secretaries have also appeared before the bureau in the same case and recorded their statements.

The Punjab government was previously involved in a tug of war with the NAB over handing over of company records. However, after months of wrangling, the Shahbaz administration finally surrendered the records to the bureau.

Like Hamza, his brother-in-law is also in the dock in the same case. The NAB had quizzed Imran Yousaf for renting out an office to the Saaf Pani Company in November at an annual rent of over Rs28 million, which the NAB believed was exorbitant as compared to the market rate.

Mr Yousaf is also accused of having Rs120m deposited to his bank account from the account of the Punjab Power Development Company (PPDC). Besides, investigation against him is also under way for possessing assets beyond known sources of income.

Some six months ago, the NAB had launched a thorough probe into the affairs of 56 public sector companies formed by the Shahbaz Sharif administration in Punjab for their alleged involvement in corruption.

These companies are accused of certain irregularities, recruitment in violation of procurement rules and merit, nepotism, and non-completion of various projects in time.

There has been a lack of performance and regular audit and non-transparent procedure of tendering in these companies which are under direct supervision of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2018