KARACHI: After the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) revealed that the Sindh government was purchasing school desks for Rs29,500 each, provincial assembly opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh visited the furniture market in Liaquatabad on Tuesday to find out the rates of different school desks.
After buying a school desk, Sheikh brought it to the Sindh Assembly building and addressed a press conference sitting on the same desk.
“The school desk that the Sindh government was buying for Rs29,500 was bought [by me] with Rs5,000,” said Sheikh, who is also the central vice-president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
“The Sindh government has purchased 160,000 desks for public schools for Rs6 billion at much higher price than the market rate by misappropriating Rs3 billion.”
Accusing former provincial education minister Saeed Ghani of purchasing the desks at higher rates, Sheikh said top leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party had been enjoying lavish lives with money generated from corruption.
The PTI had written a letter to the chief minister, highlighting that the provincial education department was allegedly purchasing dual desks for public schools at a 320 per cent higher rate, he said, adding that the chief minister was urged to take action against the officers of the department concerned and the contractors for causing a loss of billions of rupees to the exchequer.
The opposition leader said he had tried to raise the issue on the assembly floor, “but I did not get any answer.”
He demanded of the Supreme Court and the National Accountability Bureau to conduct a large-scale investigation into the alleged corruption in the purchase of the school desks. He said the residents of Sindh were fed up with “the provincial government’s corruption and manipulations”.
Sheikh said the Sindh government had decided to shut down 10,000 “ghost” schools across the province. “The Sindh government, particularly Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Education Minister Syed Sardar Shah, should ask who built these schools,” he said, pointing out that the government had earmarked Rs1,450 billion for education in the 13 years of its rule in the province.
The PTI leader called the provincial government an enemy of quality education, saying that it therefore opposed the implementation of the Single National Curriculum in the province.
A report carried by this newspaper on Tuesday said the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) had approached the chief minister on Monday with the complaint that the education department was allegedly purchasing dual desks for public schools at a 320 per cent higher rate, causing a loss of billions to the public kitty.
A dual desk is a desk attached to its own chair or bench and is often mistakenly referred to as a duel desk.
In its letter, addressed to Syed Murad Ali Shah, the TIP said the Sindh School Education & Literacy Department (SELD) had awarded four contracts on June 10, 2021, for the “supply & delivery of duel [dual] desks in public sector schools of Sindh” worth Rs5 billion at rates that varied between Rs23,985 per desk and Rs29,500 per desk, inclusive of all taxes.
Transparency disclosed that the previous tenders for the same procurement of the dual desk furniture were invited by the SELD, Government of Sindh, two years ago, precisely on February 17, 2019, for a smaller quantity.
“The lowest evaluated tender prices received from responsive bidders for these tenders varied between Rs5,700 and Rs 6,860 per desk, inclusive of all taxes. However, the School Education & Literacy Department for unknown reasons did not award the contracts.”
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