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HomeOpinionMafia minting millions out of vehicles' mega scam

Mafia minting millions out of vehicles’ mega scam

Some officials say that the vehicles were issued to officers who greased the palms of those concerned, ranging from one lakh or more. No one knows where the vehicles taken back from the field formations are kept

Due to mismanagement of the pool containing around 1,000 new and old vehicles in the Irrigation Department, rampant corruption is on the rise.

Out of the vehicles, one hundred and forty-four are brand new, including Fortuners and Revo double cabin, have been purchased by the department a couple of months ago. Informed sources revealed that the department, with the support of the World Bank, had procured new vehicles for Chief Engineers, Superintending Engineers and Executive Engineers a few months ago while some new vehicles are yet to arrive. These vehicles were mainly procured by the foreign-aided Project Implementation Unit.

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The purpose to buy vehicles was to maintain a smooth flow of water to tail farmers, supervise water courses and control water theft. But, the vehicle issue system of the department is based at the headquarters of the department in Lahore. When former Secretary Capt Retired Saif Anjum bought these vehicles, he had prepared a mechanism for allotment along with a strict set of terms and conditions, but after Saif Anjum’s transfer, a deputy secretary Mehmood took the whole system into his hands.

A group of top bureaucrats nullified Mehmood’s transfer from the department, managed his promotion from section officer and are now lobbying for his three years extension as he retires in days to come. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, some officials said that the vehicles were issued to officers who greased the palm of those concerned, ranging from one lakh or more. No one knows where the vehicles taken back from the field formations are kept. It has also come to light that some of the vehicles are present at the residences of the blue-eyed officers while some are distributed among their relatives.

It has also been revealed in the MinuteMirror investigation that a large number of vehicles were purchased in the last few years by PMO barrages, PMO canals, project implementation units, etc., sponsored by foreign funding to the province. World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), etc, are major donors. These vehicles were purchased for the project staff and consultants who supervised and executed the mega projects. A good number of vehicles purchased for projects were also taken by the then SOG Mahmood in the past and they allegedly were allotted to different officers after taking huge money.

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It was also revealed that some vehicles in good condition were auctioned off or sold out after being declared junk. It was a strange revelation that the department did not maintain adequate records of its vehicles. There is no answer to questions like why these vehicles were issued without entitlement, how a junior officer managed such a big pool of them and why there was no check on misuse of public resources. It was also alleged that some vehicles with private number plates were being driven on rent.

The investigation also revealed that the most expensive vehicles, including two Fortuners and one new Revo Double Cabin, have been given to the secretary in addition to designated vehicles, and a new Revo Double Cabin to additional secretary admin. Astonishingly, the sub-divisional officer and section officer also managed to get such vehicles without entitlement, while they were registered in someone else’s name in the record as sources disclosed. It was also learnt that some of the field officers for whom vehicles were bought were not given as these vehicles were presented to the higher authorities.

Former minister Mohsin Leghari, who at present is the finance minister, had revealed in official meetings that he had failed to get the vehicles’ details from the department during his tenure in office. An officer said that the custodian of the vehicle pool had conveyed to project management to manage petrol for some Secretariat vehicles. On the other hand, millions of rupees have been earmarked for the purpose in the headquarters.

Sources further said that the mismanagement and misuse of official vehicles are leading to poor performance of the field formations. It has also been learnt that some top-level bureaucrats in Punjab have been protecting the corrupt mafia in the department. They have been beneficiaries of the pool and POL, as alleged. Some honest officers have requested Chief Minister Punjab Parvez Elahi, and Chief Secretary Punjab Abdullah Khan Sumbal to constitute a high-level committee to investigate the case of 1,000 vehicles. They also requested the Director General Anti-Corruption Nadeem Sarwar to investigate the issue to uproot the cause of ongoing mega corruption so that the department can save millions of rupees public exchequer. The department Secretary responding to queries said that he was out of the city and could furnish details later.

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