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April 8, 2020

Inquiry Commission on Debt report: 300 bigwigs misuse funds of hundreds of billions of rupees

Top Story

April 8, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Inquiry Commission on Debt (ICOD) has prepared a comprehensive report likely to fall heavily on many bigwigs.

Some of the ICOD officials, on condition of anonymity, revealed that they had come to know some shocking details of “where, why, when and how” more than 300 individuals associated with some two dozen entities “misused” public funds worth hundreds of billions taken as foreign loans in a decade from 2008-2018. “It took nine months to conclude such a comprehensive, important and highly confidential report and would most likely be submitted to the Prime Minister's Office next week,” a senior official confirmed to The News. “The findings of the commission are shocking, identifies kickbacks in many projects, misuse of authority and misappropriations,” the official added.

The Geo News spoke to a dozen of senior officials working with the ICOD to investigate the key findings of this report being presented to the prime minister. The commission, headed by Deputy Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Hussain Asghar, also identified the cases of loans suspiciously credited in some private individuals’ accounts, associated with different tiers of bureaucracy, private contractors, politicians and even cabinet members during the regimes of Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the official revealed.

The commission has identified BS-20 to BS-22 officers who headed federal and provincial government departments, semi government authorities, organisations and coordinating departments, where the issues of incompetency, inefficiency, poor planning, absence of due diligence and mismanagement were found from Feb 2008 to Sept 2018, added the officials.

The ICOD also pointed out over 200 key individuals and 23 entities allegedly involved in suspicious transactions of some Rs450 billion through 220 private accounts in over 150 public, private projects. Some key individuals are affiliated with all the three major political parties, including the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and some of them are serving and retired civil servants, added the officials. It found complete record of 420 foreign loans obtained by the Government of Pakistan, officials further said. The report also discussed in detail all personal and private expenditures permitted under the law as well as the amounts expended within and beyond authorisation.

More than 40 senior officials assisted the ICOD, which acquired record from all the federal ministries and divisions and departments and provinces during the past nine months, officials said.

The commission has divided the findings into six categories i.e. details of loans borrowed from international/national institutions, details of hundreds of projects, forensic analysis of government accounts, records of entities and individuals, which were taken from two dozen institutions, audit reports of Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) from 2008 to 2018, irregularities pointed out in mega projects and role of individuals who had been engaged in those projects, said the officials.

The commission required help of federal government to dispatch mutual legal assistance requests to foreign jurisdictions for information pertaining to some individuals, while it also identified the departments which were non-cooperative during the inquiry. The commission, through the ARU, also intended to approach some foreign jurisdictions to get details of loans acquired either by the provincial governments, Punjab in particular, or by the federal governments, a senior official revealed.

The commission also sought help of some 175 private and government officials after Aug 8, 2019, associated with the AGP, Federal Board of Revenue, Federal Investigation Agency, Assets Recovery Unit, State Bank of Pakistan, ministries of planning and development, finance, commerce and industries, water and power, and all provincial governments, revealed the senior officials.

Replying to a question whether the borrowed money was embezzled or not, one of the senior officials said, “We found irregularities and misuse of authorities and most of the time procedural faults.” There were many instances where the commission found some projects were not properly planned and many instances of pilfering found by contractors of the projects, adding that fake schemes were also unearthed by the commission where lawmakers received funds under public sector development funds, the official said.

The officials informed that some projects considered controversial were also investigated including the BRT Peshawar Project, where the cost escalated from Rs30 billion to Rs75 billion and Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, where the cost escalated from Rs84 billion to over Rs500 billion. They said many discrepancies were noticed, and the commission has determined the responsibility and justification of the loan acquisition.

The commission has also looked into the reasons for surging of the public debt and liabilities, which ballooned from Rs 6,690 billion in 2008 to Rs30,846 billion till September 2018. An estimated total number of foreign loans as part of the public debt stood at 413 in last 10 years with total US dollar inflows of US$70.693 billion while outflows of US$44.914 billion, added the officials.

They said that the commission also received details of over 1,020 public sector projects from 2008 to 2018, saying it, however, evaluated some 100 key projects being funded by loans either came through World Bank, International Monitoring Funds, Asian Development Bank Funds or any other country.

Some mega projects, which came under their scrutiny, included raising of Mangla Dam, power projects in Rahim Yar Khan, Chistian, Vehari, Gujrat, Shalimar, KVT Line, Diamer Basha Dam, lining of distributaries and minors in Sindh, Gomal Zam Dam, extension of Pat Feeder Canal for utilization of Indus Water in Balochistan, reconstruction of Shadi Kour Dam, district Gwadar, and around 160 water and power projects were also part of the commission report.

The ICOD also found details of 25 projects of petroleum and natural resources, 85 projects of communication, including Lowari Tunnel and its access roads, rehabilitation of Larkana-Naudero Lakhi, GT Road and construction of bridge over Indus River, said the officials. Projects namely dualisation of Sakrand-Benazirabad, extension of motorway from Shamkot to Multan (southern Punjab), Faisalabad-Khanewal Expressway, National Highway and bridge over Indus River at Larkana also came under the investigation during the commission’s proceedings.

Similarly, the record of 56 projects of Ports and Shipping and railways divisions, 285 projects of HEC, 78 projects of health, 203 projects of information/science technology, 186 projects of Interior Division, 45 projects of Population and Women development projects and record of 113 projects of Cabinet Division, Climate Change Division and Communications Division also came under scrutiny.