Wednesday September 22, 2021

Malam Jabba scam: NAB disposes of case without further action

PESHAWAR: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took three-and-a-half years to complete the investigation into the Malam Jabba scandal and the case was disposed of without any further action. NAB has directed that the case should be referred to KP Chief Secretary for an investigation into irregularities in the awarding of the contract.

The Malam Jabba scandal surfaced on January 7, 2018. The NAB chairman, after declaring it a classic example of corruption and misuse of authority, ordered an inquiry on January 9, 2018.

The glimpse of the Malam Jabba scandal is very interesting. The provincial government was given ample time to rectify the irregularities. Serious questions are being raised over the NAB’s performance if there was nothing found in the case, why the case was kept pending for three-and-a-half years. Another important aspect of the case is that, in 2020 on the direction of Peshawar High Court, a high-level official committee submitted six-page report that the 270 acres of land in Malam Jabba belonged to the Tourism Department and its entry to the revenue record was erroneous.

The former head of Ehtesab Commission, General (R) Hamid Khan had raised serious objections in his letter, IW/EC/MalamJabba/ 01, on April 15, 2015, saying the bidding process was suspicious. The Samson Company submitted the amount late and it had no experience in the hotel industry. The letter said that the lease contract was given to a favourite company. Similar suspicions were expressed by the CM Inspection Team head in a letter (PIT/2015/ INSP/27/43-0541) on February 26, 2016. However, nothing came out as the Ehtesab Commission had become redundant, while the CM Inspection Team’s report had been thrown into the dustbin.

According to documents, former CM Pervez Khattak, in two meetings on October 11 and December 19, 2013, decided to contact the Australian government or the PAF for the Malam Jaba project, but the Tourism Department did not contact them. Documents revealed that neither any feasibility nor any technical, financial, and prequalification criteria were set for the project.

According to events, the KP government decided to construct a hotel at Malam Jabba (Swat) on February 27, 2014. Under the government ToRs, a five-star hotel was to be constructed on five acres of land, and under the BOT (build, operate & transfer) terms and conditions, the owners of the hotel were to get access to 270 acres of the Forest Department lands. The Board of Investment & Trade (BoIT) released an advertisement on March 3, 2014, asking companies to submit the Expression of Interest (EoI) in the project. The interested parties were asked to submit proposals under BOT terms and conditions. The due date to submit tenders was March 31, 2014. It was extended to April 10, 2014, and a notification was issued on April 14.

Seven companies submitted the EoI letters, including Waqas Traders Islamabad, Zafarullah Khan Peshawar, Trade Source Lahore, Samson Group of Companies Lahore, SMP Islamabad, Parks Pakistan Lahore, and Test Enterprises Lahore.

The Samsons Group of Companies submitted its tender after March 31 and the announcement to extend the due date was made only on the website, which is a violation of Section 27 of PEPRA rules. The company offered Rs60 lakh for the Malam Jabba Hotel at a rate of Rs12 lakh per Acre. Later, the company offered two bids of Rs60 lakh each for the hotel and the chairlift that was against the rules.

The sub-committee short-listed three companies on the basis of technical assessment and gave Parks Pakistan 76.5 points, SMP Islamabad 63 and Samson Group of Companies 60.5 points. The Samsons Group of Companies had no experience to run a hotel or a chairlift. So this company did not come up with the required criteria. Despite that, a sub-committee gave 60.5 marks to the company as per technical criteria. However, when the financial details of the companies were taken into account, Samson Group was declared number one with 72.35 points.

Interestingly, Samson deposited Rs6 million with the application on April 8, and then deposited Rs12 million on May 15, after the lapse of 35 days of the deadline.