LAHORE: As the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched a probe into alleged irregularities in the sale of urban properties by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the agency has written to the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) office, requesting it to first convene ‘mandatory’ departmental accounts committee (DAC) of the ministry on its (AGP’s) observations to have a black and white picture of the asymmetries.

The FIA has sought the record regarding the alleged irregularities mentioned in the AGP’s report from the ETPB whose headquarters is in Lahore.

“Some 1,800 files regarding the [ETPB] record of old city (Lahore) urban sub-units have been found missing,” a well-placed source in the FIA told Dawn on Tuesday.

He said the AGP’s report served as a starting point of the agency’s investigation as it would go for physical verification of the alleged irregularities committed by the board during the last several decades.

“In addition to the senior officials, the FIA will also quiz some former heads of the board regarding the sale of the properties during their tenure,” he added.

The FIA, on the direction of the Supreme Court, has initiated the probe on the AGP’s report about alleged irregularities of over Rs77 billion in the sale of 7,143 urban properties in different parts of the country owned by the ETPB.

The board, meanwhile, has requested the AGP to convene the ministry’s mandatory DAC on its observations so that it is established which one of these was upgraded in audit paras.

“This will facilitate the job of both the FIA and the ETPB with regard to alleged irregularities in the sale of properties,” a source said and added that the AGP’s report was directly submitted to the apex court in contradiction to the auditing standards.

“As a result of this, the ETPB’s version was not recorded, and it was condemned unheard with the impression of being guilty,” he added.

The board’s letter to the AGP says: “Audit report is mostly based on surmises and conjectures. The report was too haphazardly submitted before the court, most of the properties/matters involved in litigation before the courts were included. The matter of vital importance like geotagging/survey initiated on direction by the cabinet/prime minister has also been declared controversial. Now ETPB is clarifying to the FIA merely on ‘draft observations’ along with on such petty issues which are rectifiable under the law.”

The board requested the rules/procedure of the AGP regarding submission of the audit report after including the view point of ETPB and convening of mandatory DAC might be adopted.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, a couple of weeks ago, heard a petition filed by Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) patron Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, complaining that the apex court’s directives about protection of properties belonging to minority communities were not being implemented. The court ordered the FIA to conduct the inquiry in a month.

Dr Shoaib Suddle, the head of the one-man commission on minorities’ rights, had highlighted the audit report of the AGP. The AGP was also directed to commence the audit of the ETPB accounts afresh and complete the procedure within two months.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2021



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