PESHAWAR: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday informed the Peshawar High Court that it would refer the case of the alleged 72 irregular appointments of the Bank of Khyber to the State Bank of Pakistan for mandatory consent to begin a probe.

NAB additional prosecutor general Haider Ali told a bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan that a recent ordinance, which made drastic changes to the accountability law, declared that no inquiry, investigation and proceedings regarding the decision of the board of a bank or financial institution would be initiated without the approval of the State Bank of Pakistan’s governor.

He said the NAB prosecution wing has recommended to the executive board to refer the case to the SBP governor for mandatory nod.

Mr Ali said the anti-corruption watchdog had also to look into the matter of whether these appointments including that of the managing director were mere irregularities or were carried out with criminal intent.

Progress report on inquiries into govt projects submitted to high court

He, along with deputy prosecutor general Azeem Dad and additional deputy prosecutor general Mohammad Ali, submitted a report giving details of three important cases, including the BOK appointments, irregularities in the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation programme, Bus Rapid Transit project and Malam Jabba land lease case.

The high court had ordered the NAB Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Jan this year to produce that report.

The bench was hearing a pro bono petition filed by six civil society members, including Dr Adil Zareef, Maimoona Noor and others, seeking the court’s declaration that the NAB has failed to act over the alleged irregularities in several major projects of the provincial government.

The petitioners claimed that the NAB was carrying out selective accountability and had put all cases against the ruling PTI’s members on the back-burner.

They sought the court’s orders for action against the NAB officers over failure to perform duties about those cases under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

Advocate Ali Gohar Durrani appeared for the petitioners.

During the hearing, the bench asked the NAB officials to inform their chairman that the cases should be dealt with in accordance with the law.

It observed that every person should be treated equally and that there should not be any ‘pick and choose’.

The bench added that it would go through the report leading to further hearing into the case.

In its report, the NAB claims that from 2012 to 2016, around 72 officers and officials from junior to MD level were appointed in violation of the required experience, qualification, age and non-advertisement of some posts.

About the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation programme, the report said the initiative had to be executed by the environment, forestry and wildlife department in three forest regions comprising 28 forest divisions, including 86 forest sub-divisions in the province since 2014.

It revealed that one investigation to the extent of malpractices in DI Khan division had been completed and the case

had been forwarded to the NAB headquarters for approval of the competent authority.

The report said an inquiry to the extent of the procurement of seeds, polythene bags, office equipment and vehicle in Malakand region had been completed, while two other inquiries regarding the central-southern forest regions and Malakand were near completion.

It pointed out that bulky and voluminous records were involved in relation to the said forest regions and that extensive field visits to a large number of difficult terrains and vastly scattered plantation sites, recording statements of hundreds of witnesses, association of a large number of suspects was a time-consuming job.

About the alleged irregularities in the Peshawar BRT project, the NAB report said on July 17, 2018, the Peshawar High Court had ordered the NAB to look into the matter but the Supreme Court had granted interim relief to the provincial government on July 31, 2018, by suspending the high court order and therefore, no further proceedings was possible in the case.

It said the inquiry/investigation regarding the Malam Jabba land lease was authorised for probing the alleged leasing of 270 acres forestland, extension of the lease period from 15 to 33 years by the government, and award of contract/bidding process.

The report said a committee of the provincial government had decided the ownership of that land insisting the tourism department and not the forestry department was the rightful owner and prima facie, the entry in the revenue record was erroneous.

About the illegal extension of lease period, the report said the provincial cabinet had given ex-post facto approval to it on April 25, 2018.

It added that the case had been closed, while an application was approved by the accountability court about it on Nov 2, 2011.

The NAB report, however, said the anti-corruption watchdog had recommended to the chief secretary to take appropriate action over bidding irregularities.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2022

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