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October 11, 2020

SHC recalls interim bail of STDC officials in graft case

Karachi

October 11, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday recalled interim pre-arrest bail of Sindh Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) officials in a case pertaining to illegal award of

contracts.

Petitioners Roshan Ali Kanasro, Waqar Ali Shah, Altaf Hussain Memon, Abdul Fattah Daudpoto, Abdul Majeed Soomro, Mohammad Azam and Ghulam Murtaza Daudpoto, who were managing director and other top ranking officials at the corporation, had sought pre-arrest bail in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference pertaining to illegal award of contracts in the STDC.

NAB alleged that the petitioners had issued an advertisement regarding tender for purchase of furniture, repair of vehicles, event management and publications on August 31, 2017 in Daily Islam, Daily Sada-e-Sindh, Daily Sindh Special and Daily National Status that were not widely circulated in Sindh.

The anti-graft watchdog said that after the advertisements were published, the contracts/tenders were awarded to five firms — M/s Sameer Enterprises, M/s Fahad Enterprises, M/s RMA Sahita Brothers, M/s Burraq Business and M/s Total Computing

Technology.

NAB said that its investigation had revealed that the jobs were distributed among the favourite bidders through a ring by Kanasro, who was the STDC managing director, in connivance with other members of the tender committee Memon and Azam. The bureau added that none of the said companies were registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of

Pakistan (SECP) or the

registrar of the firms.

According to NAB, the said bidders did not possess the prescribed eligibility criteria, which was published in the newspapers. The investigation further revealed that the procurement rules were violated by not publishing the advertisement in leading newspapers and procedures of the STDC were also violated by disregarding the concerned promotion and publicity section in the advertisement process.

The anti-graft watchdog alleged that Kanasro in his capacity as the STDC managing director published advertisements in newspapers which were not widely circulated and so he wilfully prevented fair competition and paved the way for ineligible companies to get contracts.

NAB said the jobs were distributed among the said contractors on exorbitant rates and most of the works have not been carried out as per specifications while bills and cheques of the awarded works had also been issued by the accused without fulfilling the prescribed procedure.

NAB accused the suspects of causing a loss to the state exchequer to the tune of Rs.27.110 million.

A counsel for the petitioners contended that the advertisement was published in three newspapers and its publication was not their department’s duty but that of the information department, for which the petitioners had issued a letter and all the works were awarded according to the law and the applicable rules were followed.

They submitted that they were falsely implicated in the reference and sought confirmation of the pre-arrest bail.

A NAB special prosecutor contended that the entire process for the bidding was carried out in violation of the rules and regulations and some of the accused had admitted that violations were made but they are leveling allegations against other accused.

The special prosecutor submitted that the petitioners in collusion with each other misappropriated a huge amount and caused a loss to the public exchequer and there was documentary evidence against them which proved the commission of offence.

A division bench of the SHC comprising Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sangi after hearing the arguments of the case observed that record reflected the procurement committee was constituted under the Rules 7 and 8 of the Sindh Public Procurement Rules 2010 wherein the petitioners, Kanasro, Memon, Azam and Daudpoto, were involved in the committee.

The high court observed that the petitioners issued the advertisement for the different works but as per the investigation conducted by NAB, the contracts were awarded to favourite bidders in violation of the rules and those companies were not registered with the SECP or the registrar of firms.

Further, the firms did not possess the required criteria as per what was prescribed and published in the newspapers.

The SHC observed that most of the petitioners were levelling allegations against each other and some of them admitted that they did not carry out any work but the company and the bank accounts were used by others while receiving the amounts from the government in place of the said contractors.

The high court observed that it was to be decided by the trial court after recording evidence of the witnesses that who misappropriated the alleged amount and the SHC had no jurisdiction to decide the same by exercising extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction.

The bench observed that the relief claimed by the petitioners through the instant petitions was a relief for which no provision existed in the relevant laws for which the petitioners were charged and only invoking extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction, the high court could grant this relief in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid reasons to be recorded in writing.

The SHC observed that the petitioners were seeking pre-arrest bail however that could not be granted unless there had been mala fide intent on part of the complainant or the investigating agency.

The bench observed that while deciding the bail petitions, an elaborate sifting of evidence could not be made but only a tentative assessment was permissible and a cursory glance of the record showed that all the petitioners in connivance with each other had misappropriated a huge amount of money from the government from which some amount was recovered through plea bargains.

The SHC observed that under these circumstances, the interim pre-arrest bail granted to all the petitioners earlier by the court was recalled with immediate effect.

The bench observed that another petitioner Shahenshah Hussain was seeking post-arrest bail and there were sufficient evidence against him which connected him to the commission of the offence and therefore his petition for post-arrest bail was also dismissed.