LAHORE: No relief seems in sight for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as yet another investigation has been launched against him for ‘misuse of authority’ in the award of the Lahore gateway and other projects to his ‘favourite contractor’.
“The NAB Lahore launched a probe against Mr Buzdar in the award of the Gateway-II Thokar Niaz Baig project to his ‘favourite contractor’. The NAB has written to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and the Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (Tepa), asking them to provide details as to how the under-construction project’s cost swelled to Rs80 million from Rs25 million,” a source told Dawn on Friday.
“The anti-graft body is also looking into all those development projects in the province in which the ‘favourite contractor’ of Mr Buzdar had allegedly been awarded the contracts,” he said.
Watchdog says Thokar gateway construction cost swelled
The 130-foot wide and 60-foot high gate near the NAB office at Thokar Niaz Baig on Multan Road was scheduled to be completed in December 2019. The chief minister is the LDA’s governing board chairman.
An official of the Punjab government told Dawn that the actual cost of the project was Rs29 million and no revised cost had been estimated as yet. “The contractor has so far been given Rs17 million and the project, and the delay is because of Covid-19,” he said and added the project was likely to be completed in next two months.
Mr Buzdar has been in the dock since NAB opened the liquor probe against him this month. The chief minister is accused of receiving Rs50 million bribe to force the Excise and Taxation Department head to issue a liquor licence to an under-construction hotel in violation of the law. He is also facing charges of acquiring property, mostly in south Punjab, in the names of his relatives and others.
In his reply to NAB’s questionnaire this week, Mr Buzdar chose to clarify his position regarding issuance of the liquor licence but no details about the properties of his and his relatives were provided to the bureau.
“I have done no illegal work. I have no role in the issuance of the liquor licence to the hotel in question. All allegations leveled against me in this case are false,” Mr Buzdar said. The chief minister had also appeared before the NAB Lahore in the liquor case on Aug 12.
The Excise and Taxation former director general, Akram Ashraf Gondal, had already consented to become an approver against Mr Buzdar.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2020