Planning Commission washes its hands of National Logistics Cell

Published July 16, 2021
PAC chairperson Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PAC website
PAC chairperson Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Thursday. — Photo courtesy PAC website

ISLAMABAD: The Planning Comm­ission has expressed its inability to “rein in” the National Logistics Cell (NLC) and suggested the cabinet division place it under control of the communications ministry.

Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh, the secretary to the commission, informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently that the NLC was beyond the control of his ministry as “they do not share details even about audit-related paras in meetings of the departmental accounts committee (DAC)”.

The PAC noted that almost all the audit paras were left untouched in the DAC meetings and advised the NLC, its auditors and the secretary to the Planning Commission to examine these in the coming DAC meeting.

Yaqoob Sheikh, the secretary, was of the view that since the commission had no relevance with the NLC, it should have been an attached department of the ministry of communications.

According to him, the commission has approached the ministry of defence in this regard.

Yaqoob Sheikh said the NLC management was unable to explain its position over the audit paras that spoke about financial irregularities running into billions of rupees.

According to the auditors, the NLC neither observed procurement rules nor did it safeguard public money.

Rana Tanveer Hussain, the PAC chairman, suggested that the procurement rules should have been amended to enable commercial entities of the armed forces to undertake projects without any competition in “hard areas”.

The auditors pointed out that the National Logistics Cell had executed an agreement with the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company for carrying out work on the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit System from Surjani Town to Saddar at a cost of Rs1.07 billion.

According to the audit paras, the NLC sublet the work of Vertical Trans­portation — Esclator to M/s Wind Rose Conslutancy at an agreed cost of Rs969 million on the basis of quotation without getting any notice published in newspapers.

“The management compromised transparency, deprived the entity of the advantage of competitive rates and denied a fair opportunity to other prospective bidders for participation in the bidding process,” the audit report said.

Through another audit para, the auditor general said the NLC had made an overpayment of Rs178m to several subcontractors.

The organisation’s chief financial officer (CFO) told the PAC that an inquiry had been conducted over this para and two officials — Chaudhry Afzal Tarrar and Lt Col Bashir Yaseen — had been dismissed from service.

But the director general of commercial audit informed the committee that the NLC did not share this information in the DAC meeting.

An NLC official, however, argued that the auditors raised the para on the basis of a classified document and termed it breach of confidentiality.

The auditors pointed out that the NLC had extended “undue favours” to a private company and awarded it the contract of a project worth Rs 120m even though the firm lacked expertise in the construction business.

The NLC informed the committee that the project was executed in a “hard area where a junior commissioned officer embraced martyrdom”.

According to the NLC official, since the leading private companies were reluctant to execute the project in that area, the project was assigned to a relatively inexperienced entity.

The PAC chairman deferred discussion of identical audit paras, including those related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying that he would suggest to the authorities concerned to amend the rules in order to enable the NLC and similar entities to execute projects without apprehensions of censure.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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