LAHORE: Former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the forensic audit conducted on the orders of the court did not find any corruption in the department during his tenure.

Since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader is in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau in a real estate scam, NAB produced him before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar seized with a suo motu case regarding ‘colossal’ losses faced by the railways during the last five years of the PML-N rule.

Representing the ex-minister, Advocate Kamran Murtaza told the bench that a reply to the audit report had been filed on behalf of his client. He said neither corruption nor embezzlement of public money had been found in the audit report. However, he said, the losses mentioned in the report were not incurred by the railways during the last five years alone but were a backlog of over 60 years.

Report says 70pc of revenue goes to pension; PR working under serious limitations, constraints

Mr Rafique tried to apprise the bench about his ‘achievements’ being the railways minister, but the chief justice adjourned the hearing and directed the federal government to file its reply on the issue. The NAB officials took Mr Rafique back after the proceedings.

In a brief chat with media persons, Mr Rafique said he served the railways with devotion and brought progress to it. He said incumbent minister Sheikh Rashid had misled the court about the prices of locomotives. He said neither a locomotive cost Rs220 million nor his government bought any with Rs420m.

“The conduct of NAB with me is good but I am against its law and cases,” responded Mr Rafique when asked as to how he was being treated by the bureau during the physical remand. He said punishment being given to Nawaz Sharif was nothing but cruelty. He alleged that the PML-N was being targeted in the name of accountability.

In response to another question about a new inquiry initiated against him on charges of assets beyond means, the PML-N leader smiled and said, “Don’t know how many inquiries are going to be launched because it’s PML-N’s turn now.”

Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique are in NAB custody for their alleged involvement in the Paragon Housing Scheme scam.

The report of the forensic audit conducted by A.F Ferguson & Co stated that railways had been operating under serious limitations and constraints making losses [rather] than revenue.

It showed that the railways incurred losses to the tune of Rs30 billion during the financial years 2012-13, Rs32bn in 2013-14, Rs27bn in 2014-15, Rs26bn in 2015-16 and Rs40bn in 2013-17.

While the revenue made by the railways for the same period was Rs18bn, Rs22bn, Rs31bn and Rs36bn and Rs40bn, respectively.

The report said during the five years the increase in revenues had been more offset by the huge jump in expenditure and the loss worsened from Rs30bn in 2012-13 to Rs40bn in 2016-17. An annual loss in excess of Rs40bn is not sustainable, the report said.

The report revealed that 70 per cent of the revenue had been used for the payment of pension to retired employees. It said the railways had been working under constraints, including quality and age of tracks, quality and age of locomotives/coaches and quality and efficacy of the telecommunication system.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2018