ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee was informed on Wednesday that public had encroached upon more than 14,000 acres of land of Pakistan Railways (PR) with the connivance of the PR staff and that the organisation would not survive for long if immediate investment was not made in its aging tracks.
“These include agricultural, commercial and residential properties belonging to Pakistan Railways. It is a serious problem. We desperately need to invest in 11,880 kilometers of aging tracks to sustain in the future,” Secretary of Pakistan Railways Syed Mazhar Ali Shah told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The PAC meeting was held to review audit reports of Pakistan Railways for 2019-20.
“Pensions eat up 45 per cent earnings of Pakistan Railways. Fuel costs up to Rs28 billion and electricity costs Rs4 billion to Pakistan Railways. For the first time in 70 years, the first transport policy was drafted in 2018,” Mr Shah lamented.
Railway secretary says 14,000 acres illegally occupied, pensions eat up 45pc of department’s earnings
Drawing a comparison with India, which invested $21 billion per year on its rail networks, the senior official said that while the neighbour focused on railways, Pakistan paid more attention to awarding road contracts.
Nonetheless, the official pointed out that Pakistan Railways was setting priorities right by taking steps to cut electricity bills by Rs2.5 billion by switching to solar energy and prioritising procurements by linking it to safety, customer services and profitability.
The committee said that it was now time to upgrade trains to electric instead of doing it later as it would cost the country more.
Taking up audit paras, the office of Auditor General Pakistan (AGP) informed the PAC meeting that encroachment of Pakistan Railways’ land had caused Rs4.4 billion loss to the organisation.
The PAC directed the Railways secretary to write to the power division to cut electricity supplies to all illegally constructed buildings/structures on its lands.
The AGP also pointed out the loss of potential earnings of PR due to non-auction of surplus sites worth Rs1.133 billion.
The PAC was further informed that the PR failed to arrange auction of 65 vending stalls, three parking stands, 295 shops, 164 sites of land and installation of two billboards since 2004 till 2017.
The meeting was told that the PR suffered Rs622 million loss due to award of contracts at lower rates.
Holding PR responsible for these losses due to its negligence, the AGP said that the land, parking stand, luggage van, kiosks, etc. were leased to various private parties at lower rates than the benchmark.
The committee was further informed that certain contracts regarding renovation of railway stations, parking stands, constructions/special repairs, procurement of material, etc. were awarded to various contractors through poor negotiations and reduced rates amounting to irregular award of contracts in violation of Public Procurement Rules. This led to the loss of Rs555.96m to the organisation.
For all these objections and other related paras, PAC Chairman MNA Noor Alam Khan directed the federal secretary to settle the matter by holding inquiries and fixing responsibilities against officers and report to the committee when it meets again on June 20.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023