Sunday December 03, 2023

Rs3.49b irregularities seen in Billion Tree Tsunami Project

September 15, 2022

PESHAWAR: The auditor general of Pakistan has detected over Rs3.493 billion irregularities during the three-year special audit of the PTI flagship 10-Billion Tree Tsunami Project (BTTP). The auditor has declared Rs 1,259 million payment doubtful and Rs983 million expenditures fictitious.

Approximately, Rs1.25 billion expenditures were declared irregular, wasteful, unlawful and unnecessary. The 36% eucalyptus plantation was made against the 10% provision of the PC-1, resulting in a financial loss of Rs 11.96 million besides huge usurpation of water leading to dryness of land, creating a threat to the environment.

Around 199 advance audit paras have exposed fake and excessive reporting by the staff, putting a question mark on the transparency of the project. The auditor has recommended a high-level inquiry as well as immediate recovery from those who caused the losses.

During the special audit of the BTTP for the financial year 2019 to 2021, it was noticed that various enclosures of the project established in different circles on 16,953.74 hectares were shown part of the project. The GPS measurement showed an over-claimed area, inflicting a loss of Rs305.523 million to the national exchequer.

The auditor is of the view that there is a high risk of misappropriation in the establishment of enclosures. The high degree of overlapping put a question mark on the management and professionalism of the whole chain of command. He said if a professional attitude had been adopted, such loss would not have happened. The whole chain of command was responsible for this loss and be brought to light.

It was astonishing to observe that some officials did fake reporting of the project achievements which were duly verified by the monitoring team of the PMU. The fake reporting was carried out in Chitral, Dir Kohistan, Lower Dir, Malakand, Kunhar Watershed and Unhar Watershed Forest Divisions. The auditor is of the view that reporting fake areas was a fraudulent practice that might not be justified. He has recommended that an inquiry should be initiated for fixing responsibility as well as recovery of Rs 353.312 million from the persons at fault.

Similarly, several forest divisions fictitiously claimed plantation activities in different areas, overlapping the areas under the BTTP. The auditor said the loss occurred due to overlapping plantation areas of other DFOs. The monitoring report of the conservator resulted in an over-claimed area under the project. He said the DFO Orakzai and Galies Forest Division raised 7,671,400 plants in different nurseries while the said divisions showed utilization of 10,912,930 plants in different interventions. However, no whereabouts of the excess utilization of plants amounting to Rs32.415 million were shown in the audit that made the activities unauthentic and doubtful.

The auditor said uncertified and ungraded seeds obtained from unauthentic sources not only caused Rs109.365 million losses to the government but also increased the failure chances. The cost estimates of nurseries were not vetted by the specialized unit of the Environment Department. He observed that different circles raised various nurseries under the BTTP from which 51,070,457 plants were got. Of them, 28,000,122 plants were shown utilized while the whereabouts of the remaining 23,070,335 plants worth Rs 195.701 million were not shown to audit. He recommended a fact-finding inquiry for fixing responsibility as well as immediate recovery of Rs 195.701 million from the persons at fault.

It was reported that in the Mardan Forest Division (355 hectares) was charged for block plantation by the staff. It was revealed in the further scrutiny of the record that the actual area measured by the monitoring team was 38.08 hectares, causing a loss to the government to the tune of Rs 22.6 million. It was observed that the DFO Kohistan Watershed performed a bad land stabilization activity in various locations. It was astonishing to report that the sites namely Dedal 19 ha, and Chakesar 23 ha, were shown stabilized, but 34 ha did not physically exist on the ground. The auditor was of the view that the sites were fictitiously charged and caused a loss to the treasury amounting to Rs 5.168 million.

The report revealed that the Project Director PMU released Rs70.152 million to the DFO Mardan in 2019-20. The DFO reported almost all interventions in excellent condition while the scrutiny of the relevant record revealed that the plantation worth Rs8.500 million carried out along the Swat Expressway, Katlang, was in the worst condition. It was astonishing to note that the monitoring officer declared the area in excellent condition while the same was reported worst by senior officials at the same time. This contradiction clearly indicates that the monitoring officers intentionally did false reporting to the competent authority.

After the test check, the auditor was of the view that fake monitoring reports were generated for the entire Mardan Division. There was a high chance of misappropriation of government resources utilized under the BTTP. Fake monitoring reports put a question mark on the transparency of plantation activities carried out in the division. The auditor recommended early recovery from the responsible.

It was noticed that different forest divisions showed plantation of eucalyptus in violation of the PC-1 allocation of 10% of the total plantation. The scrutiny of the record revealed that 36% eucalyptus plantation was made against the 10% provision of the PC-1. The irregularity was a violation of PC-1, resulting in a financial loss of Rs11.96 besides huge usurpation of water, leading to dryness of land and creating a threat to the environment. Different forest divisions had distributed 19,706,685 plants free of cost to locals, but the record revealed that only 15,981,000 plants were distributed. This indicated that either the distribution was not carried out or only paperwork was done.

Likewise, in the Daur and Kunhar watershed, Torghar, upper and lower Kohistan Forest Divisions, 6,653,182 plants were distributed among locals free of cost, having a market value of Rs57.736 million. The detailed list of beneficiaries was not provided for audit. The auditor was of the view that without a proper record, the distribution of free plants amounting to Rs57.736 million was doubtful. It was noticed that various plantation activities were carried out, but no updated plantation journals duly approved pre & post-activity photographs and geo-mappings (shapefiles) of areas. The auditor said the absence of the aforementioned record of expenditure amounting to Rs205.628 million could not be verified.

The audit report said that in Upper Kohistan it was noticed that Rs500,000 was incurred on a scheme, but no detail or record was available. Similarly, in Lower Kohistan, Rs 4.00 million was spent on developing rainwater, harvesting and water source schemes, but no detail or record was available.

It was observed that the DFO DI Khan carried out different activities in waterlogged areas while as per the monitoring report, the said areas were dry and not waterlogged. The auditor said the above-cited sites were dry. This caused a Rs5.550 million loss to the national exchequer. He observed that Rs 288.877 million incurred on account of procurement of vehicles by the PD PMU were considered wasteful because the department also purchased almost the same number of vehicles under the BTAP. He said the BTTP was the sister project of the BTAP, and the same vehicles could have also been utilized. Moreover, the procurement of vehicles through direct purchase from the Indus Motors amounting to Rs 288.877 million as well as contracts were not signed by the PD PMU. The DFO Lower Dir executed various activities amounting to Rs11.57 million, but no updated plantation record was approved by the Directorate of HR&M.

It was noticed that Rs.25.97 million were incurred for the purchase of various materials, but no stock register as well as tender documents were shown for audit to authenticate the procurement, usage and issuance of the said material, which made the whole expenditure of Rs 25.97 million doubtful.

The spokesman for the Department of Forests, Environment and Wildlife, while reacting to the audit report, said a special audit was under way by the AGP office. The draft report for the first two years of the BTTP had been received and sent to the divisions concerned for feedback. The audit paras would be settled down by the departmental committee. He said the BTTP was a federal project. KP has a target of raising 1 billion plants at a cost of Rs 27.3 billion, equally shared by the PSDP and the ADP. However, up till now, only Rs 11 billion had been released to KP with approximately 50 % from the ADP and the PSDP.

“Approximately Rs 3 billion have been released to Nigaihbans of enclosures while Rs 2 billion to Chowkidars of various interventions through crossed cheques. Furthermore, the procurement of about Rs 3 billion for 30 tractors, 30 water vehicles, plants, polythene bags, soil, etc had been sought through a competitive tender process,” he said.