Wednesday December 01, 2021

ACE launches inquiry against Punjab EPA officials for mega fraud

By Ali Raza
July 19, 2021
ACE launches inquiry against Punjab EPA officials for mega fraud

LAHORE: The Anti-corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab on Saturday launched an inquiry against Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials over their alleged involvement in a mega fraud.

Despite the weekly holiday on Saturday, the Punjab ACE summoned seven EPA officials while the EPD secretary was directed to provide all relevant material.

The Punjab EPA remained under criticism for not just its failure in fulfilling its responsibilities but also for the corrupt practices of its officials at almost all levels. The ACE launched the recent inquiry to probe mega frauds in the EPA after EPD Secretary Zahid Hussain wrote a letter in which he highlighted mega frauds, corruption and several irregularities being continued in the EPA.

According to sources, the EPD secretary had found several irregularities by EPA officials while he had also caught several officials red-handed when they were busy doctoring official documents at a private office in Gulberg. “On May 7, the EPD secretary suspended four EPA officials after they were caught red-handed in a private office near Liberty Market while at least 150 different files of the EPA office were confiscated during the raid,” sources said, adding that the recovered files were of grave importance and were related to EPA internal matters.

The sources said EPA officials were using the files to bargain with different proponents and were demanding millions of rupees from the proponents on the basis of those files when an EPD team raided their ghost office. Initially, five people were suspended by the EPD secretary including Inspector Anmol Tabbasum, Inspector Abubakar, Senior Clerk Arif Manzoor and Field Assistant Muhammad Mushtaq. However, following different complaints of the same nature, the secretary made three more officials OSD including Deputy Director Azhar Iqbal, Assistant Director Faheem Nasim and Assistant Director Muhammad Arshad.

An official privy to the developments informed on condition of anonymity that the EPD secretary had sent at least 128 files as sample to the ACE. These were the files in which many approvals were rewarded on back dates, statuses of projects were changed to get approvals from the DG office or an expert committee, forgery and tempering with the minutes of the meetings, NOCs rewarded without the DG approval, tempering in site inspection reports, the official said and continued that the recent tug of war between the EPD minister and the secretary was caused after this incident as some of the nominated officials in this scam enjoyed the backing of a political figure, who were given charming posts in the EPD on his recommendations.

He alleged that the said officials had taken millions of rupees in the name of the political figure for providing fake NOCs to multiple proponents besides tempering with official information in the EIA reports.

When contacted, EPD Secretary Zahid Hussain said the inquiry was initiated after he wrote a letter to the ACE. “I did not have need to conduct any official inquiry against those persons as they were caught red-handed. Initially, I have sent only 128 files and these are just like samples,” he said and claimed that many other things are in his notice and he will take strict action against them soon. He, however, refused to reply to a question about the alleged political backing of the accused.