Seeking accountability: PAC orders inquiry into Sheikh Rashid’s illegal purchase

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 9:30:18 by



ISLAMABAD: 

The Public Account Committee (PAC) has ordered an inquiry into the illegal purchase of a Mercedes Benz coach in 2005 that can possibly implicate former information minister Sheikh Rashid and the then information secretary Shahid Rafi.

The PAC, parliament’s top accountability body, took the decision after the Federal Audit’s director general (DG) revealed that the former top officials of the information ministry had bought the imported luxury vehicle while the premier had only allowed the purchase of a Hyundai van for staff use.

PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan ordered Information Secretary Taimur Azmat to complete the inquiry within 15 days and fix responsibility. The secretary’s efforts to convince the accountability body that the purchases were legal went unheard.

The Mercedes vehicle in question was bought for Rs2.2 million.

“Who pocketed the additional Rs1 million?” asked Noor Alam, a Pakistan Peoples Party MNA.

The audit official said that in December 2004, then prime minister Shaukat Aziz relaxed a ban and allowed the purchase of the Hyundai Grace Van. However, the ministry illegally purchased an imported vehicle, Mercedes Benz Sprinter 311 CDI coach from Messers Shah Nawaz. The payment for which was made in July 2005.

“The purchase of the foreign-assembled vehicle was unauthorised”, said Federal Audit’s DG. He said despite having the premier’s approval to purchase a van, the ministry advertised the approved vehicle but gave specifications of a Mercedez Benz.

In another case, the PAC ordered an inquiry into irregular expenditures of ,647 (Rs1.44 million) on dental treatment by a former bureaucrat. Azmat contended that recently-retired information secretary Sohail Mansoor got dental treatment when he was posted as the press minister in New York.

ATV Default Case

The PAC also decided to request the Supreme Court to settle the issue of the Rs260 million default by the contractors of a private television channel.

The issue is pending with the apex court and despite repeated attempts the court is not fixing a hearing date, said an official of the ministry. He requested the PAC that his name should not appear in media reports since the case was still pending in the court.

He alleged that the ATV contractor has defaulted and when the government tried to recover the amount he went to court, seeking appointment of an arbitrator.

He said the contractor has hired the services of Athar Minalla. “As long as Minalla is the lawyer the ministry cannot get an early hearing date”, remarked PAC Chairman Chan.

In the 2007 judiciary restoration movement, Minalla was the spokesperson for Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The official said that the ministry has requested the Supreme Court to allow a re-auction of ATV.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.



Islamabad News Sources -2

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