Public Accounts Committee seems all at sea when it comes to project contractors

Published June 4, 2021
In this file photo, PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs a committee meeting at Parliament House. — Photo courtesy PAC website
In this file photo, PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs a committee meeting at Parliament House. — Photo courtesy PAC website

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) — the supreme parliamentary forum for accountability of federal government departments — appears to be helpless before influential contractors in the power sector and bureaucrats allegedly involved in irregularities worth billions in construction projects, it has emerged.

A PAC meeting was held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Rana Tanveer Hussain that examined the audit report of water and power ministry for the year 2019-2020. In the report the auditor general of Pakistan has raised objections regarding billions of rupees released to private contractors.

According to the audit report, the public exchequer suffered a loss of Rs5.4 billion due to undue favour granted to the consultant of Diamer-Bhasha dam, Rs4.5bn on account of advance mobilisation fund in the case of contractors of Dasu dam, Rs2.7bn granted as fictitious verification of the contractor of Nai Gaj dam project, Dadu, Rs1.1bn on account of favour granted on performance security for Kachi Canal project, and undue favour granted in settlement of Keyal Khwar Hydropower project, Pattan.

Members express surprise over advance payments worth billions of rupees

Mr Hussain was visibly perturbed over these audit objections because each one of them was worth more than Rs1bn. However, as newly appointed water resources secretary Dr Shahzad Khan Bangash was apparently not familiar with the audit paras and because chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) was also not in attendance, the PAC decided to defer scrutiny of the audit report.

Mr Hussain expressed his helplessness in dealing with the matter in an appropriate manner and said that every bureaucrat was not just trying to save his own skin but also that of his predecessors. “I fail to understand how billions of rupees were handed over to incompetent contractors,” he said.

As per the audit observations, the “grant of mobilisation/advance payment is an undue favour to the contractors despite delay in the commencement of works by more than four years which showed financial mismanagement and needs justification”.

The PAC was told that Chinese firms China Gezhouba and China Railways were awarded the contract for the construction of Dasu project and a sum of Rs4.5bn was paid to the contractors.

Chairman Hussain pointed out that adviser to the prime minister Abdul Razak Dawood was a partner of China Gezhouba in the Mohmand dam project. Mr Dawood, however, disassociated himself from the project after public criticism over the issue and handed over the affairs of his company to his son.

Upon this, PAC member Noor Alam Khan insisted that Mr Hussain summon details of the Mohmand dam project as well. He was of the view that a contractor should not have been inducted into the federal cabinet due to conflict of interest.

Another member, Hina Rabbani Khar, termed release of mobilisation funds to the contractors “daylight robbery”.

Syed Naveed Qamar questioned the release of advance payments before the acquisition of land for the project.

Water resources secretary explained that because the record of land was not maintained by the revenue office, therefore the land was being acquired through negotiations with the local people.

The auditors also objected to a settlement of Rs5.4bn apparently because of a consultant’s fault.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2021

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