FAISALABAD: Acting vice chancellor (VC) of the Government College University of Faisalabad (GCUF) Dr Nasir Amin and another professor, Dr Farhat Abbas, have been declared guilty of misappropriation of funds in a research project in 2015, however, no action has been taken against them.
A project titled ‘Provision of academic and research facilities at the GCUF’ was awarded on a cost sharing basis to the university in April 2014 and the cost of the project was Rs732 million in which the share of the GCUF was Rs200 million. The project included procurement of lab equipment, chemicals and glassware, vehicles, furniture and fixtures.
A five-member committee was formed by then VC Dr Mohammad Ali Shah to issue tender and to buy lab items.
No action taken against the guilty
Prof Abbas was made the project director and convener of the purchase committee and Dr Amin was also part of the committee which started bidding. Two companies - Technology Links (TL) and Rizvi and Company - were selected. The TL was the lowest bidder in the tendering. Instead of awarding contract to the TL company, the committee gave this contract to the Rizvi and Company.
In Pakistani rupees, the price difference between the two companies bids was Rs162 million.
Dr Amin attended almost all meetings of the procurement task and properly signed the relevant documents as well.
However, after about 15 months of the process, Dr Amin submitted an application to Dr Shah on Oct 7, 2015, saying, “Recently, I got the chance of evaluating and inspecting the tender documents provided in the original tender file of tender 214/2014 where I found some irregularities in the purchase of hi-tech laboratory equipment.
Since it involves possible misuse of public funds, I feel it my responsibility to report this matter to the competent authority for a thorough investigation. For the above mentioned laboratory tender, out of 5 technically qualified companies, four companies submitted tender documents for the laboratory equipments. Among these technically qualified companies, the TL was the lowest bidder in terms of rates for the 22 items of the lab.
On the other hand, the Rizvi and Company quoted almost two times higher rates of the 22 items. However, the technically qualified bid of the TL was disqualified for the reason that the company was “not responsive” and the tender was eventually awarded to the Rizvi and Company.
“I should also mention here that the whole process of purchase of the equipments was marred by the procedural irregularities. The project director ‘kept me in the dark’ while getting my signs on tender documents and keeping all the details of the process secret. Since it is evident to me that award of tender was not carried out in accordance with the rules and regulations of purchase and the project director may not have used public funds in an honorable way, I request your honour to probe into this matter.”
Following the complaint by Dr Amin, Dr Shah had formed a three-member committee consisting of Dr Muhammad Zubair, then dean of science and technology, Dr Amin and Dr Tayyaba Sultana.
This committee also raised question mark on the entire purchasing process of this project and Dr Shah took this matter to the Syndicate meeting which asked for the formation of another committee to probe the matter thoroughly.
Another four-member committee headed by Dr Ikramul Haq, director ORIC of the GC University, Lahore, was formed on Nov 24, 2015 which also said that irregularities had been committed in the entire process.
The finance department of the Punjab government objected that why complainant Dr Amin was included in the inquiry committee, constituted by Dr Shah. He also raised the question that why the complainant who was a member of evaluation committee submitted his complaint after 15 months of the committee meeting.
Similar questions were raised by Dr Amir Ijaz, VC of the Mohammad Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering and Technology, Multan, who also probed into the issue.
On May 7, 2018 Dr Ijaz was appointed as the inquiry officer on the direction of the syndicate.
Dr Ijaz wrote to the registrar of the GCUF on June 22, 2018, the complaint was lodged by Dr Amin to probe the irregularities committed in procurement process of hi-tech lab. He said he studied the inquiries conducted by Dr Muhammad Zubair and other by Dr Ikramul Haq and reply by defendant Dr Farhat Abbas.
“Prima fascia it can be concluded that the complainant (Dr Amin) himself was part of the procurement committee and has been present in most of the committee meetings and has also signed the papers related to the procurement process.
It’s a matter of concern that why the complainant took 15 months to lodge the complaint after the completion of procurement process? Whereas, on the other hand, why the financial bids of Technology Links were opened while Technology Links was ineligible in technical bid and was non-responsive? It makes the case weak and on the other hand casts doubt against Dr Abbas. The purchase committee should have had included some representatives from treasurer and resident auditor offices.”
He further mentioned that it can be concluded that formalities were not followed in true letter and spirit and the procurement process was carried out in haste. No solid evidence was provided that how the TL company was non-responsive?
It is not clear that why Rizvi and Company was given the supply order despite their quotation almost double the quotation by the TL. Apparently, in the presence of strict administrative hierarchy, it seems difficult to hold one person responsible for the irregularities committed. So it is difficult to point out a single person responsible for the irregularities committed in the process of procurement, he added.
GCUF Registrar Ghulam Ghaus says the report was received by the previous VC well before appointment of Dr Amin as acting VC and has been with the registrar. He said Dr Amin was a complainant, and his complaint stirred the process of inquiry.
Sources said Dr Amin placed the inquiry in the syndicate meeting held a few days ago seeking fresh investigation. However, the members did not approve it, saying the issue had already been probed by two independent inquiries which categorically mentioned serious irregularities in the process.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019