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Wednesday October 27, 2021

No action against BECS officials running 2,350 ghost schools

April 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Education and its attached department are sitting on an inquiry into more than 2350 ghost schools which caused Rs225 million annual losses for several years, a special audit directed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed last week.

These ghost one-teacher one-room community schools did not only cause losses to the tune of billions but also deprived thousands of poor students of their basic right but those responsible for the loss have not be held accountable so far after passage of several years. These schools meant for the poorest of the poor are operated by the Ministry under Basic Education Community Schools Programme (BECS).

In just one example of how the department is operating in far flung areas of the country, National Accountability Bureau Balochistan have learnt that a single BECS official Ghaffar Shah had been pocketing salaries of 31 ghost schools for more than one year between July 2010 to October 2011, documents available with The News revealed.

The fresh special audit was directed by PAC chairman Syed Khurshid Shah and the report was compiled by DG Federal Audit in April 2018 to be presented in PAC soon. The special audit revealed that about 2007 ghost schools being operated by the Ministry under BECS have been confirmed as fake through third-party audits in March 2012 but so far no action has been taken against those responsible and no details were shared with the fresh team of Directorate General Audit which compiled the fresh report this month.

No action was taken to even ascertain how the department officials managed to prepare thousands of fake ID cards which is also a major breach of national security. Another batch of 349 ghost schools was identified in 2012 in Punjab, KPK, Sindh, Baluchistan, FATA and Gilgit Baltistan(GB) but a special inquiry committee of the Ministry of Federal Education has so far failed to submit its report which was due on 21 January 2016. The committee was constituted vide order No 5-9/2015-16(G&P) on 23rd December 2015 comprising Ministry officials Kanwal Javed, Rahim Dad Dhari and Hameed Niazi but till to date the findings of the committee are still awaited.

The committee was tasked to find out exact number of ghost schools, financial effects of these ghost schools and unauthorized transfer of RS62.36 million from Assignment Account to other account. The committee was also supposed to fix responsibility for this massive corruption.

While contacted Secretary Ministry of Federal Eductaion Akbar Hussain Durrani admitted shortcomings in the BECS programme and promised to respond to audit allegations as soon as he receives them.

He claimed that his ministry had prepared a provisional inquiry report as directed by the Departmental Action committee (DAC) but admitted that so far no action has been taken. However audit document available with The News revealed that the DAC had approved the formation of inquiry committee on 23 December 2015 but so far no report has been prepared by the committee.

According to its official website, BECS is a project of the ministry currently running 12,304 one-teacher school across the country with enrollment of 493,972 students from backward areas. Each school holds about 30 students from Class 1 to Class 5. In the absence of proper control, the project is marred with corruption allegations and PAC had repeatedly taken notice of irregularities after damning audit reports.

The Director General of BECS Muhammad Abbas Khan has termed the report “very unprofessional” in his written comments on 17th April 2018. When contacted by The News for his version, Abbas Khan said the irregularities are related to a period when he was not serving at BECS. He said some lobbies are trying to malign the department.

However the fresh audit report says that the current management of BECS did not provide any record on what action has been taken on 2007 ghost schools. “The audit team sought record related to NADRA verification which provided these schools as ghost schools. But no record was provided for verification.” the report says.

In the absence of record audit could not ascertain the exact number of cases in which the CNIC of school teachers were not verified by NADRA and whether the schools whose teachers CNIC were not verified by NADRA were closed.

The team could also not know whether any disciplinary proceeding was initiated against the official/officers involved in the irregularity and was the amount paid on account of salaries and operational cost recovered from the concerned officer of otherwise? It also questioned what remedial measures made by the management to avoid such massive corruption in future.

According to its official website, Becs is a project of the ministry currently running 12,304 one-teacher school across the country with enrollment of 493,972 students from backward areas. Each school holds about 30 students from Class 1 to Class 5. In the absence of proper control, the project is marred with corruption allegations and PAC had repeatedly taken notice of irregularities after damning audit reports.