NAB accused of going slow on corruption cases

Updated February 12, 2019

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PPP's Farhatullah Babar claims NAB seems quite efficient on cases against opposition but delays proceedings against PTI. — File photo
PPP's Farhatullah Babar claims NAB seems quite efficient on cases against opposition but delays proceedings against PTI. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has accused the National Accountability Bur­eau (NAB) of going slow on many mega corruption cases, including its complaint regarding controversies in award of the Rs309 billion contract for construction of Mohmand dam.

Fingers were also being raised on the anti-graft watchdog for not expediting an inquiry in the case of Rs148 billion Karachi-Lahore Motorway (KLM) contract awarded by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government four years ago (in 2015), PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn on Sunday.

Interestingly, the government is also blaming NAB for delay in disposal of cases as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq has also questioned NAB’s performance and said the anti-graft watchdog has not been deciding many important cases for over four years.

“We don’t know why NAB takes such a long time in deciding cases as its laws require completion of investigations in 90 days,” he said while talking to reporters on Sunday.

Farhatullah Babar claims anti-graft watchdog seems quite efficient on cases against opposition members, but it delays cases against leaders of ruling PTI

Mr Babar said the PPP had decided to raise the issue in the media and contact NAB officials. He claimed that NAB seemed quite efficient on the cases against opposition parties’ leaders, but it was going slow on the cases against leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

On Jan 5, PPP leader Chaudhry Zaheer Mehmood filed a complaint with NAB against Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood as the contract for Mohmand dam was awarded to a consortium led by his firm Descon.

According to the complaint, the bid of the consortium comprising Descon, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro for the dam was accepted for award of the contract, whereas the technical bid of another consortium of three firms, including the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), was rejected.

“Thus the single bid was accepted and the contract is being awarded to the consortium which included Descon,” the complaint said. Descon belonged to Mr Dawood and the award of contract to this consortium raised questions about its transparency and fairness, it added.

The complaint said the award of contract to Descon and others amounted to a “conflict of interest” and against the law and procedure.

The PPP leader claimed that the PM’s adviser had committed an offence under Section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, which was punishable under Section 10 of the ordinance.

Kara­­chi-Lahore Motor­way

In March this year NAB had decided to conduct a formal inquiry to probe alleged Rs14 billion losses to

the national exchequer caused due to “illegal” award of Rs140 billion Karachi-Lahore Motorway’s (KLM) Abdul Hakeem section (230km road) contract.

The contract was awarded to a joint venture of a local firm Zahid Khan & Brothers (ZKB) and a Chinese company China Railway-20 Bureau Group Corporation in August 2015.

According to NAB, an inquiry against some officers of the National Highway Authority (NHA) has begun on the basis of the complaint of Transparency Interna­tional (TI) and evidence collected by NAB during Complaint Verification (CV) process.

The NHA awarded Rs148 billion contract of 230km KLM Abdul Hakeem section in August 2015, ignoring serious shortcomings in the successful bid.

It is believed that the NHA could have saved Rs24 billion had the project, which is being funded through the Public Sector Development Project (PSDP), been awarded on merit and according to the Instruction of Bidders (IoB) or clauses of contract.

The owner of ZKB, Haji Zahir Khan, claimed that his firm had not committed any irregularity in award of the contract.

He said he was confident that NAB would find nothing against his firm during the investigation process. “We have saved over Rs200 billion of the country by executing a number of important projects at low rates and the quality of our work speaks for itself,” he added.

Asked why most of the road contracts under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were awarded to his firm, ZKB, during the PML-N government, Mr Khan said his firm won contracts on the basis of its lowest bids and credibility. “We won contracts because of lowest bids. No one drops such big contracts in our pocket without any reason,” he said.

On the other hand, an NHA spokesman said that the authority would cooperate with NAB in the case and would provide all details required.

He denied allegations regarding irregularities in the award of KLM contract.

The NHA claimed that the bidding process for award of the contract was carried out in accordance with the law as well as conditions of the bidding documents. The whole procurement process has been evaluated by different committees at various stages participated by technical experts supported with leading procurement and contract specialist of the country, legal and technical experts from the market.

It claimed that the project was awarded to the lowest evaluated bidder.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019