Lahore: 11 senior officers held for funds embezzlement
LAHORE: Following a probe by the Chief Minister Inspection Team (CMIT), as many as 11 officers of the Livestock and Dairy Development (L&DD) Department have been held by the Anti–Corruption Establishment (ACE) for their alleged involvement in a multi–million rupee corruption scam in the Idara-e-Kisan, The Nation reliably learnt on Friday. Eleven high-ups of the L&DD Department, including Director General Irfan Zahid and Chief Executbive Officer Syed Amir–ud–Din Bukhari, have been arrested on charges of misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs74 million.
“The guilty have been saved and others having nothing to do with the embezzlement of funds have been made scapegoats, sent behind the bars and dragged into courts,” said an official on condition of anonymity. He further said the present drama was staged just to save the skin of politicians and a NAB official involved in the scam.
The official also denied the allegation that the government released funds on fake reports submitted by officials of the L&DD Department, saying the funds were released on the pressure of an influential parliamentarian. “Why Zafar Altaf has not been arrested though the department had requested the ACE director general to initiate an inquiry against him,” he asked.
The official further said a former secretary of the L&DD Department constituted many committees to check the work in progress on the said plants and reports were also prepared in this regard.
After Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sahrif took notice of a complaint regarding misappropriation of public funds by the Idara-e-Kisan, the L&DD Department wrote a letter to the ACE director general (a copy of which is available with The Nation), seeking an inquiry against Idara-e-Kisan Executive Committee Chairman Dr Zafar Altaf and Chief Executive Officer Syed Amir-ud-Din Bukhari.
As per the letter, the Idara–e–Kisan and the Punjab Dairy Corporation (PDC) entered into a joint venture agreement in 1996 to operationalise the closed Lahore Milk Plant. Under the agreement, plant machinery worth Rs5 million, as well as 129-kanal land, was given as share of the Punjab government, while the Idara–e–Kisan contributed Rs10 million as capital investment. The L&DD Department urged the ACE director general to take action against the Idara–e–Kisan on these charges.
The letter further said besides misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs74 million, the Idara-e-Kisan had failed to pay the PDS’ share of profit for the past nine years. The Idara-e-Kisan also borrowed Rs22.73 million from the Punjab government and, despite repeated requests, it could not submit bank statements of the joint venture or any such documents to provide source of funding for the powder milk plant.
Moreover, the Idara-e-Kisan unlawfully sold the milk plant and shifted the machinery on November 25, 2011; and sublet the state-owned land measuring 196–kanal in Pattoki district, Kasur. The charge sheet further said the Idara–e–Kisan fell short of paying back Rs20 million provided by the L&DD Department for replication of the project in Sargodha. The Idara-e-Kisan also did not happen deposit Rs25 million to the Directorate of Animal Health against supply of milk cooling plants and chillers. Moreover, the Idara-e-Kisan, as per the agreement, failed to maintain a milk marketing system, hand over the assets and ensure sustainability of operations.
“A development project ‘Establishment of Milk Processing Plant (EMPP) in Districts Layyah and Sialkot’ with a total cost of Rs1,152 million was executed through the Idara–e–Kisan and the Punjab Rural Support Programme (PRSP). The project started in 2006–07 and ended on June 30, 2011,” the letter added.
An L&DD Department high official told this scribe on condition of anonymity that the PRSP, after doing construction work, failed to carry out marketing, but the government continued disbursing money.
“The Rawalpindi Arid Land director, who is the director general now, was the then coordinator of the project. The entire arrested lot has nothing to do with the funds, since the money was directly transferred to the Idara-e-Kisan and the PRSP. The L&DD Department has nothing to do with the misappropriation of the funds,” he claimed.
The official also denied the ACE report that said funds were transferred to the director general’s account. “The title and the account number mentioned in the investigation report do not match,” he added.
The two camps, the bureaucrats and the politicians, were misusing their positions and making the innocent officers appear as guilty just to save the real culprits, another official told this scribe on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, L&DD Department Secretary Irfan Elahi said all the accused had been suspended and a departmental inquiry would be started against them after the court proceedings were over. “If found guilty, they would face the music since there was no place for corrupt officers in the department,” he added.