LAHORE: The Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) is going through a major overhaul, as a number of its officials are facing probes for allegedly attesting fraudulent mutations, preparing fake tax and municipal fee vouchers/receipts, receiving heavy bribes from beneficiaries and other irregularities across the province.
Several officials have either been removed after being proven guilty or suspended from service after initiation of inquiries against them in the last few months, Dawn has learnt. The irregularities were unearthed after the top Punjab authorities, the PLRA administration and its intelligence wing and others concerned started focusing on the malpractices reported at land record centres in various parts of the province. The officials are facing inquiries by their department as well as under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability (Peeda) Act 2006.
“The core objective of replacing the patwar khanas with computerised land record centres in all districts was to abolish the decades-old patwar culture and end corruption. But, gradually the authority learned that the young and educated officials deputed at the centres have become more corrupt,” a senior official told Dawn on anonymity.
“This happened since the system designed for issuance of revenue record (fard jamabandi), transfer (intiqal) and other land documents had no external or third-party check — operational linkages with the respective revenue officers, assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, commissioners. Moreover, there was no proper monitoring and audit system to end malpractices by the centre staff,” he explained.
51 probes initiated; 13 officers/officials terminated, nine exonerated, 18 reinstated, 31 transferred
The PLRA had been formed in 2017 to establish efficient, accountable, equitable and secure Land Records Management and Information Systems to eradicate the patwar culture.
According to reports shared with the Punjab government, for the last four months at least, the authority appeared to be very strict about various administrative, functional and operational issues at the land record centres.
“An inquiry has been initiated into the submission of more than 80 per cent fake fee challans of tehsil municipal administration (TMA) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) against Land Records Officer (LRO) Abu Bakar, Service Centre In-charge (SCI) Hafiz Rana Muhammad Ahmed, service centre officials (SCOs) Sumaira, Muntazir Mehdi and Shahid Hussain Shahid of the Arazi Record Centre in Jalalpur Pirwala tehsil. A reference has been sent to the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) for inquiry and action. Another reference has been sent to the FBR for verification of challans and action,” states one of the reports.
It also reveals that LRO Syed Nayyar Abbas and SCO Aswad Iqbal of Sahiwal tehsil had been terminated over illegal transfer of precious land by changing the nomenclature of property from urban to rural. The illegal transfer was reversed as it resulted in huge financial loss to the government.
The report also mentions that an inquiry was initiated into the submission of more than 80pc fake fee challans of TMA and FBR against SCI Naveed Bashir, Muhammad Sultan, Fazil Muneeb, Hafiz Naveed, Sajjad Hussain, Assistant Director Land Records (ADLR) Irum Shahzadi, Class IV staff -- Dilawar Hussain, Muhammad Shafiq, Nasir Mehmood and Muhammad Waqar of the Muridke tehsil Arazi Record Centre. A reference was sent to the ACE for inquiry and action and another to the FBR for verification of challans and action.
The report further mentioned that an inquiry was also initiated against ADLR Irfan Ahmed Khan and SCO Amir Fareed and precious state land in Chak 562 and 584-TDA Kot Addu tehsil saved from illegal transfer to private parties.
Moreover, an inquiry was also initiated against ADLR Fariha Irum Warraich, LRO Asma Yameen and SCO Falak Sher for allegedly transferring state land unlawfully in Chak 119-JB Faisalabad city to private parties. A probe was also launched against ADLR Alley Zahra for illegal vacation of court stay order and transfer of land illegally.
The report reveals that 51 inquiries had been initiated against officials of various categories over various fraudulent activities/complaints from clients.
“Five trap raids were also carried out by the ACE against the Arazi Record Centres. Various officials were caught red-handed and suspended. Moreover, 86 officers/officials were suspended over different malpractices and currently proceedings against them are under way,” it mentions.
The report claims that 13 officers/officials were terminated for corruption, nine exonerated and 18 re-instated after proper proceedings; 31 ADLRs and LROs working against the regulations in resident districts were transferred, while more officials would be transferred in the second phase.
Talking to Dawn, PLRA Additional Director (Communication) Nadia Cheema said the authority is facing severe resistance and retaliation from those involved in malpractices. “Our main goal is to make the authority and its centres corruption-free as per directions of the government. And we will keep doing this to discourage the corrupt officials backed by a mafia,” she stressed.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2020