PESHAWAR: Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani put the government in the dock by presenting the preliminary report of the Auditor General of Pakistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday with shocking revelations about irregularities in procurements for the Covid-19 pandemic and other expenditure in the health department.
Finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, who also holds the additional portfolio of health, flew into a rage censuring Mr Durrani for presenting ‘unauthenticated and unresolved’ audit paras in the house through a calling attention notice.
“I don’t expect such a blatant violation of the rules from the experienced and seasoned parliamentarian by bringing unresolved paras on the floor of the house,” he said while responding to the allegations of the opposition leader.
“In my opinion, this is a crime because the department has yet to give its reply on these paras,” he said amid uproar in the house.
The minister said the opposition leader presented preliminary report, while the health secretary had yet to discuss paras with the audit team.
He said procurement was made during emergency.
Mr Jhagra said the opposition had levelled allegations of corruption for political point-scoring and that no honest officer would allow procurements in view of such political statements. “You (Durrani) will be responsible for loss of lives by presenting this report,” he said, adding that the Covid-19 positivity rate had reached 20 per cent in Peshawar due to the rallies organised by the opposition parties.
Minister says it’s a crime to produce unauthenticated, unresolved audit paras in house
He said the AGP report could not be discussed in the assembly.
Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, who was chairing the sitting, also expressed displeasure over the disclosure of audit paras before discussion in the Public Accounts Committee.
He said the authenticity of audit paras was in question and they all would be discussed in the PAC meeting.
“This is a secret document and you should not bring this to the assembly,” he told Mr Durrani.
The main highlight of the audit report, which the opposition leader presented in the house, was Rs15.7 million expenditure incurred on the entertainment of a team of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, which visited Peshawar during the pandemic.
“People give donations to the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, while the government spent the whopping amount on the entertainment of its team in Peshawar,” Durrani said.
He said the contract for entertainment was awarded to a hotel owner, who enjoyed warm relations with the ruling party’s leader.
The opposition leader said he didn’t want to disclose the name of the hotel’s owner and left the matter to the government.
Quoting the audit report, he said the Chinese-made ventilators were purchased at over Rs55 million but the ‘Made in USA’ stickers were pasted on those machines to cheat auditors.
He said procedures were not followed in awarding parking contracts, which caused huge losses to the exchequer.
Mr Durrani said contract for purchasing air conditioners worth Rs10 million was also awarded to blue-eyed boys of the rulers.
He said the audit report also found large-scale irregularities in the purchase of angiography machine, misappropriation in the cardiology ward and undue favour to some people.
The opposition leader said the prime minister’s cousin had been running affairs of the health department from abroad.
He alleged that the government was trying to sweep findings of the audit report under the carpet.
He left the house in protest when treasury members made a hue and cry.
Durrani also addressed a news conference in his chamber and gave more details of the audit report to the media.
In the house, the government tabled the performance audit report on the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestation Project financial years 2014-17 and performance report audit report on the Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project financial year 2017-18.
The AGP report revealed that planning of the BRT project was faulty and the civil works were commenced at fast track in the absence of the detailed engineering design which resulted in several issues.
“Asian Development Bank, which financed the corridor, was cautious to all these issues that were pointing to the
project’s failure from being a well-planned project to a hastily executed one and for that reason the ADB had identified the risk that political pressure to fast track the project due to general elections 2018 will undermine both design and implementation of the scheme,” the report said that will be discussed in the PAC meeting.
“The planning lapses were observed throughout the project implementation period which badly affected the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the project,” said the report, adding that the project also witnessed lack of one of the basic components of successful project management i.e. coordination.
The revised PC-1 of the project which approved in 2018 was Rs66.437 billion.
The report also found flaws in Billion Trees Tsunami, a flagship project of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s government in KP 2013-18 which cost was Rs19.44 billion.
It found that allotment of nurseries to the private growers was not transparent while procurement of resources for the project witnessed some serious issues that negatively affected the economy of the project.
The report said the feasibility study of the project was not carried out; project financing remained erratic; budgeting was flawed, and project accounting was not properly deployed as a tool of internal control.
It added that the data provided by the Project Management Unit about the outputs of the project has discrepancies and omissions.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2020