KP Assembly panel to probe ‘embezzlement’ of funds for polio workers’ security

Published September 21, 2021
In this file photo, policemen stand guard as a health worker administers polio drops to a child during a polio vaccination campaign in Karachi. ─ AFP/File
In this file photo, policemen stand guard as a health worker administers polio drops to a child during a polio vaccination campaign in Karachi. ─ AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday authorised its special committee to probe the alleged embezzlement of Rs10 billion of funds, which were released to pay stipends and offer food to the police officials providing security to anti-polio vaccinators across the province.

Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, who chaired the sitting, will constitute the committee comprising both treasury and opposition members under Rule 194 of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Procedure and Conduct of Business Rules for investigation into the alleged irregularities in the utilisation of funds, which the government received from foreign donors.

During question hour, Nighat Yasmin Orakzai of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party requested the chair to refer the ‘important’ matter to a special committee of the house instead of the relevant standing committee for probe.

She said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and anti-corruption establishment had already been investigating the alleged corruption.

Speaker lambastes health dept over ‘casual attitude’ towards house’s business

“The government received billions of rupees from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for the eradication of polio from the region. Big chunks of those funds were meant for the payment of stipend to the police’s personnel providing security to vaccinators during anti-polio campaigns,” she said.

The lawmaker said the cops escorting vaccination teams were not receiving stipends and some black sheep in the police department were involved in irregularities of funds.

She claimed that the black sheep had pocketed billions of rupees of stipends, so the chair should refer the matter to the house’s special committee for investigation.

Law minister Fazal Shakoor Khan opposed the formation of the special committee for probing the issue and asked the chair to refer the question to the relevant standing committee.

He said the ruling PTI’s slogan was corruption-free Pakistan and the government would welcome transparent investigation into the matter.

Opposition MPAs Khushdil Khan advocate of the Awami National Party and Ikhtiar Wali of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz endorsed the mover of the question and requested the chair to constitute a special committee of the house about it.

The law minister didn’t oppose it after Speaker Mushtaq Ghani said it would be better to refer the matter to the special committee instead of the standing committee because the mover had claimed huge irregularities.

The chair will notify the committee, which will submit its report to the assembly within 30 days.

Also, health minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, who is regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the provincial cabinet, joined voices against his own department when the irate speaker raised the issue of the department’s casual attitude towards the house’s business.

Responding to a calling attention notice of PML-N member Ikhtiar Wali when the speaker asked Mr Jhagra about how to deal with his department, which is taking the house’s business casually, the minister said it seemed that there were administrative shortcomings in the department.

“Under the rules of business, the secretary of the department is not bound to report to the minister. The minister is not entitled to write the annual confidential report of the secretary,” he said requesting the opposition to support the government in case those rules of business are changed.

Mr Jhagra said he would take up the matter with the chief minister and chief secretary today (Tuesday) and would ask for a team, which he wanted to be accountable.

Mr Ghani said he had already dispatched a note of displeasure against the health secretary to the chief secretary and was going to send another today.

He asked the opposition members if any department’s failure to reply to the lawmakers’ questions didn’t amount to the breach of the entire house’s privilege.

“If this amounts to the breach of our privilege, then bring a privilege motion against the health secretary,” he said, adding that the relevant secretary was already summoned to the assembly.

The assembly referred a joint calling attention notice regarding the National Electricity Policy and Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP 2021-30) to the standing committee.

Three opposition members Ahmad Kundi, Salahuddin and Inayatullah Khan moved the calling attention notice, which criticised the new proposed policy.

Speaking on the calling attention notice, MPA Ahmad Kundi said the policy would discourage hydropower generation in KP and would open up a Pandora’s box.

“In the IGCEP, the lifecycle of the hydropower generation has been reduced to 50 years. The province will suffer if it is implemented,” he said, adding that the minimum lifecycle should be 100 years.

The lawmaker said the Warsak power generation unit was installed in 1960s and it continued to produce electricity.

He said the hydropower plants produced the cheapest energy compared to solar and wind power and that hydropower was the economy of the province.

MPA Inayatullah Khan said the provincial government should oppose the proposed policy at all forums.

He also opposed the proposed cycle plan of the hydropower generation and said the province would suffer if the proposed draft was approved.

The member said the energy department didn’t fight its case properly.

Minister Jhagra supported the call for referring the calling attention notice to the committee and said energy was the province’s future and would ensure industrial growth in the province.

He said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had actively persuaded the IGCEP and contested the province’s case at all forums.

The minister said only one project of the province was included in the first draft, but now, all public sector projects had been incorporated.

He said hydropower was the major portfolio in the IGCEP in which KP had major share, too.

Mr Jhagra added that major projects like Mohmand dam, Dasu dam and Diamir-Bhasha dam had been included in it besides the province’s own power projects.

He said KP was a major contributor to IGCEP.

The minister claimed improvement in power supply to KP compared to the 2013 situation.

He said the provincial government had approved Rs20 billion to be invested in the Peshawar Electric Supply Company in two years to improve power supply.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2021

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