ISLAMABAD: As the investigation into one of the biggest scams in the history of the Capital Development Agency (CDA) inches forward, the investigators were startled to find out that at least Rs20 billion were spent on development work carried out through the quotation system.

Under the quotation system, the civic agency is allowed to carry out emergency work, such as maintenance of street lights and water lines, without floating tenders.

It, however, cannot exceed Rs500,000. CDA’s various wings while bulldozing all the rules and regulations got “development work carried out through quotation instead of the open bidding process”, allegedly causing loss to the exchequer, sources said.

Initially, it was revealed that only Rs5bn was released under the quotation system, but upon further investigation, the number turned out to be a whopping Rs20bn.

Sources told Dawn that Rs20 billion had been paid by CDA’s finance wing in the name of quotation expenditure during the last few years.

Civic agency directorates also accused of making ‘double payments’ for projects

Giving supposed reasons for the bypassing of the regulations, the sources said in the open bidding process, bidders would have to face several quality checks, but in the quotation system, there was no such mechanism.

“Not only billions of rupees were spent on so-called quotation works but quality and quantity of work were also compromised,” said an engineer of the CDA, adding that if the said works had been carried out through open bidding, these projects could have been done at a much lower rate.

He said the probe committee was also looking into allegations of “double payment”, as allegedly some works were partially carried out through quotations, and later tenders for the same project were also sought.

“This is [a new] allegation and we are probing this aspect as well,” said an officer of the CDA.

Sources said the former CDA chairman had issued two warning letters - one in February 2021 and another in April 2022 - strictly ordering all wings of the civic body not to carry out quotation works.

However, despite his orders, some CDA officials got the work carried out, including some unnecessary works through quotations, without bringing the matter to the notice of the CDA chief.

It is relevant to note here, new CDA Chairman Mohammad Usman last month after ordering a special audit of three directorates of the civic body had also completely banned the quotation work.

A notification issued by CDA’s deputy financial adviser Mohammad Tariq Lateef last month said a three-member committee comprising officers of the engineering wing had been formed to provide technical support to the director audit.

The said probe team is conducting an audit of the first quarter of the fiscal year of its Market and Road Maintenance Directorate, Machinery Pool Organisation (MPO), and Environment Directorate. The committee is tasked with verification of the work with regard to quantum and payment made thereof and to check the quality of work executed through necessary tests where required.

Sources said massive funds were utilised by the said directorates, not only in the first quarter of this fiscal year but during the last few years as well, and huge payments were made against the work carried out through quotations.

An official alleged that payments were also released to various contractors against bogus projects; however, an officer of the CDA said that before the completion of the probe, the civic agency cannot say anything about such payments.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2022

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