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September 13, 2020

Illegal lease of 150 shops: PIT report raises serious questions about NAB probe

Peshawar

September 13, 2020

PESHAWAR: The report of the Provincial Inspection Team (PIT) on the illegal lease of 150 shops and other commercial buildings of PDA in Hayatabad raised serious questions on the NAB investigations.

The NAB had closed the case and sent it to the provincial government for further action. However, the NAB KP officials have officially requested for a copy of the report prepared by the PIT. A NAB Khyber Pakhtunkhwa official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the matter was referred to the provincial government in accordance with the law as the shops were leased through open bidding and there was no breach of contract. Three years later the rent was increased by 25%.

Declaring the lease policy of PDA illegal, the PIT said the officers had failed in performing their duties as per the applicable laws/rules and were found guilty of misuse and abuse of authority which is cognizable offence under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance.

National Accountability Bureau Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has sent a letter No 3(07) Ops Div/NAB H/Q on September 8, 2020 to PIT to provide certified copy of inquiry report along with annexure regarding extension of lease period of 150 shops from three years to 33 years by PDA. It further stated to provide the information regarding misuse of power by PDA officials in award of leasing a restaurant at Bagh-e-Naran, Hayatabad, as well.

Interestingly, the NAB had referred the illegal lease cases of 150 shops and Swan Restaurant to provincial government on August 11, 2017 with the remarks that the case has been considered at appropriate level and it has been decided to refer the same to Provincial Inspection Team for necessary action.

However, Provincial Inspection Team declared the PDA decision to extend the lease of 150 shops in Hayatabad from three to 33 years illegal and recommended its immediate cancellation. PIT blamed the PDA officials for violating rules and regulations in leasing shops and recommended suspension and action against them.

According to data available with this correspondent, PDA had initially leased out 150 shops in Hayatabad through open auction between 1991 and 1996.The successful bidders were then given the possession of the shops. The initial lease of three years was extendable for three years subject to 25 percent increase in rent. In 2009, PDA’s director general approved conversion of three years lease into 33 from initial date, on additional payment of Rs 100,000 by each lease.

PIT noted that the PDA had neither developed its lease policy nor adopted the provincial government policy while leasing out shops. It was further noted that the agency failed to point out any rule, regulation or law to substantiate the contention.

The PIT report said the whole process of leasing out shops and the so-called lease extension was not covered in the law. The relevant officers had failed to discharge their duties in accordance with applicable laws and found guilty of misuse and abuse of authority which is cognizable offence under the NAB Ordinance. The probe committee noted that the lease was not covered under the law and therefore, it was illegal, unlawful and not tenable in the eyes of law. “It is a classic example of lackadaisical, casual, callous, passive, inefficient and indifferent attitude towards official business and safeguarding the interests of the organisation and saving it from recurring financial losses,” report further stated. The committee also noted that the then PDA DG’s action of extending the lease period up to 33 years was a clear-cut case of misuse of authority.