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ISLAMABAD: Thirty-five high-ranking officials of the Pakistan Steel Mills and several associated trading companies have, in the past five years, been involved in more than 20 cases of corruption, misappropriation and other irregularities, the Senate learnt on Wednesday.

Minister for Production Anwar Ali Cheema informed the Senate that the largest number of cases of corruption and irregularities were registered against Mueen Aftab Shaikh, the former PSM chairman, who faces six cases, and former PSM director, Sameen Asghar, who faces more than eight cases. However, Mr Shaikh and Mr Asghar were charged together in most of the cases.

According to the Forensic Accountancy of PSM 2008-09 and 2010-11, both Mr Shaikh and Mr Asghar had been involved in irregular purchase and procurement of 40,000 to 50,000 mega tons of coal and metallurgical coke, along with other raw materials, at ‘highly’ inflated prices from various suppliers.

They are also implicated in the irregular award of sale contracts and mismanagement of products. Separate charges have been registered against the two concerning sale arrangements for PSM products and various finished items.

Mr Shaikh is already under trial for the charges against him, Mr Cheema explained.

Because Mr Asghar is a federal official, the FIRs registered against him are referred to the government’s Establishment Division for disciplinary action.

The PSM general manager, Mohammad Masood, was charged in 2009 with three cases of mismanagement of production items, and found guilty in all the three.

Investigation into the irregularities at PSM revealed that nine other officials were not guilty of the acts they had been charged with.

In 2010, however, FIRs were registered against eight trading companies, alleging that the companies were favoured in violation of the industry’s rules and regulations, and those cases are still pending.

In response to a question from Senator Mohammad Talha Mehmood, of the JUI, Mr Cheema clarified that the PSM's accounts were regularly audited.

“The auditors have given us reports between 2007-08 and 2010-11, detailing irregularities and corruption,” he said.

Holding a file containing names of the senior officials facing the charges, he said that “necessary actions” had been taken against the personnel involved.

Despite the auditing, however, the senators were told that several questions remain unanswered.

“No one has been held responsible for the loss of Rs7.15 billion from the sale of steel products below their price,” said the minister for production.

Similarly, the extension of a free credit facility to selective dealers caused the PSM a loss of Rs664.6 million, and the company lost a further Rs4.025 million in awarding a contract for the sale of waste material.

In fiscal 2008-09, material losses at the PSM cost the company Rs158.8 million, and there were separate financial losses totalling over three million rupees.

All these cases remain unresolved. In some of these cases, the personnel involved had retired before investigations began, while some had died.