Wildlife officials held for fraud in Mansehra
MANSEHRA: The anti–corruption establishment (ACE) has arrested 18 officials of wildlife department for financial irregularities worth over Rs1.5 million. “We have finalised the inquiry launched following a written complaint by district coordinator officer and found that Rs1.5 million were embezzled by district forest officer (DFO) wildlife and 17 other officials,” said Ijaz Khan, circle in–charge ACE, here on Thursday.
Former DCO Mansehra Amber Ali Khan, before his transfer to Mohmand Agency as political agent last month, had moved a written complaint to Fiaz Ali Shah, director ACE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for registration of an FIR against the DFO and other officials. He had also given details of financial irregularities in parking and other fees at Lake Saiful Muluk by the wildlife department.
Mr Ijaz said that without having legal authority the DFO commercialised the department’s property and embezzled the money thus earned.
“During investigation we found that the wildlife department charged Rs1,000 each from 300 horse owners and Rs3,500 each from 25 boat owners at Lake Saiful Muluk without any approval and the amount thus received illegally was not deposited in the department’s account,” Mr Ijaz said and added that statements of owners of horses and boats were also recorded before the local court.
The ACE official said that a fee of Rs20 was also illegally charged from each vehicle and Rs10 per tourist travelling in these vehicles at the lake.
“The money earned through this unlawful practice is also not deposited in the account,” he said.
He said that an FIR would be registered against the DFO, range officer, Balakot, and 16 other officials, most of them watchers, within a couple of days.
When contacted, DFO Iftikhar Uzzaman claimed that he and his staff had not embezzled even a single penny and all the money earned had been deposited in the department’s account.
Mr Zaman, however, said that Rs10 per tourist was charged at the lake for 22 days after which then DCO imposed section 144 and the fee was stopped. He said that Lake Saiful Muluk was part of the National Park and they (wildlife department) were entitled to receiving the fee from the visitors.