ISLAMABAD: Thief-catcher caught stealing, big time

Senior AGP official rejects charges
By Rauf Klasra

The office of the Auditor General of Pakistan has launched efforts to save his own skin from the furious Public Accounts Committee (PAC), as certain audit paras of serious nature about the massive abuse of drought project launched with Rs 11 billion borrowed from the Asian Bank and the World Bank, are said to have been settled before they were tabled before the public representatives.

During the tenure of previous Auditor General Younis Khan, a total of 33 audit paras of serious nature were written against the Audit Officer Mohammad Anwar during the course of special audit. The magnitude of corruption in the execution of the Drought Mitigation project, Islamabad, was so great that at one stage the then Federal Minister Ishaq Khan Khakwani, MNAs Makhdoom Alam Anwar, and Tasneem Nawaz Gardezi and others had demanded registration of murder cases against the top guns of the Planning Division and the Project Director Mohammad Anwar after death of 33 women and children in the desert of Cholistan because of drought.

It was alleged that the funds meant for Cholistan desert were consumed at the Planning Division for the purchase of expensive cars, mobile phones, fancy tiles, computers, laptops, petrol cards, and for drawing TA/DA, recruiting relatives, and buying other luxuries for the top guns.

But, the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz had put his foot down to save a senior official and other secretaries of the Planning Division, who were misusing the drought funds.

This “noble task” of saving the auditor from the parliamentary accountability who was found guilty by the team of auditors of the AGP, has now been done by one senior auditor of AGP office— Mazhar Hussain Sathio, who is said to be a friend of Mohammad Anwar, who has now been given a clean chit.

A source confirmed that the audit report published last year against the corrupt practices of one of the senior auditors of the AGP was now being quietly rewritten by none other than the accused auditor himself, which would be presented before the PAC after making lot of changes in the original booklet.

Sources said the PAC would be informed that after discussing all audit objection in the Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC), those paras against the corrupt auditor were recommended to be settled after the committee found his replies “satisfactory”. As per practices of the past, the PAC members without discussing them would simply stamp their endorsement to the recommendation of the DAC and with it the whole issue would be settled once and for all.

Even one audit objection is being deleted which revealed that when a federal minister was authorised to use only 1600cc car, the audit officer who was acting as project director of this foreign funded drought project purchased a 2800cc vehicle for his personal and family use without its provision in the PC-1 or government rules. The project director spent Rs 2.5 million on the purchase of this 2800cc car for his use from the money meant for the drought stricken people of Cholistan, Balochistan and NWFP.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spent seven years in jail only on account of misuse of one vehicle but now a bureaucrat has got a clean chit from his own fellow auditors ahead of the meeting of the PAC. Ironically, PM Gilani was booked on the recommendations of the AGP when in its report on the accounts of the National Assembly secretariat as its auditors, he had claimed the misuse of cars by Speaker Gilani.

An official said that the big beneficiaries of this secret move to delete important audit paras was none other than former deputy chairman planning Dr Akram Sheikh, project director Mohammad Anwar, one hundred powerful people who got jobs through backdoor channels in drought project and few powerful retired Army officers, who were given lucrative deals from drought funds.

Earlier, after reports of corruption in the project, the then AGP Younis Khan had ordered its special audit. The audit of this programme had got importance as the project was being run by one of the auditors Mohammad Anwar who virtually had no experience of running such a mega development project. But, with the blessings of his officers whom he kept happy by giving them official cars for their families’ use, he continued to run this project for five years.

Meanwhile, according to the available copy of original audit report, a team of auditors had raised serious objection to massive misuse of Rs1 million from the drought fund on renovation of office of former deputy chairman Dr Akram Sheikh.

Likewise, another audit objection related to bogus recruitment in the drought mitigation programme is agreed to be settled.

The para said that rules for recruitment and appointment of contract employees and consultants were not fully observed while making these appointments as many powerful people were called for interviews even after the fixed date and they were also given the jobs. The relatives of the project director also got jobs. Many were appointed despite the fact that they did not possess the prescribed qualifications and experience.

Another audit para that related to purchase of vehicles is said to have also been settled. The audit had pointed out that new Honda City cars and Toyota Hilux 2800cc vehicles were purchased on the plea that existing vehicles were not reliable, which was not correct as already three cars had been purchased in the near past and all were in good condition.

It was reported that the drought unit at Islamabad was maintaining more vehicles than approved in the PC-1, purchased without any approval in the PC-1 for the use of officers and their families.

Another audit para about the unauthorised recruitment of a retired Army brigadier in the drought plan was said to have been settled as this gentleman happened to be a close family friend of the project director.

Talking to The News, Mazhar Hussain Sathio of the AGP who is said to have recommended all these paras against his friend auditor, rejected these allegations. He did not agree that he was giving clean chit to his friend auditor Mohammad Anwar after holding DAC meetings ahead of the PAC meetings. He said he did not have the powers to delete the audit paras as it would only be decided by the PAC. However, he confirmed that he had recently held a DAC on the drought related audit paras where these objections were discussed. He claimed that all the audit paras were very much there in the printed book as he would only present the updated version on these audit paras before the PAC, which would take the final decision about their fate.

When asked as to why no action was taken against the audit officer Mohammad Anwar after a team of the auditors established a series of audit paras against his corruption, Mazhar Hussain Sathio said that he was not in a position to say anything on this subject, as when the report was published, he was then serving in Sindh.

The News,

Thursday, October 16, 2008


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