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Embassy buildings probe to be over by March 30, PAC told

Embassy buildings probe to be over by March 30, PAC told

ISLAMABAD: The National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) has assured the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of National Assembly that it will complete investigations into the sale of properties of Pakistani missions in Jakarta and Tokyo by March 30.

During scrutiny of accounts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the year 2004-2005, the audit authorities had pointed out irregularities in the process of sale of properties owned by the Pakistani embassies in the two Asian cities.

On Wednesday, the PAC expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the NAB, which has been conducting inquiries into the matter, and noted that the bureau had failed to conclude the investigation even five years after it took cognisance of the issue.

Zahir Shah, a director general of the NAB, assured a PAC meeting on Thursday that the bureau would complete the investigations by March 30.

He said that letters had been sent to the governments of Indonesia and Japan to ascertain the value of the properties, which had been disposed of without completion of the due process.

He said that NAB was also questioning officials concerned of the foreign affairs ministry.

Mr Shah said the bureau had found evidence of misuse of authority in the sale of the chancery building in Jakarta. But, he added, there was no evidence of any misconduct or misuse of authority in the sale of the Tokyo properties though some procedural flaws had been detected in the process.

The committee also took up the audit report on the construction and repair of ‘high-security block’ at the ministry. The audit authorities had detected irregularities in the project, which caused a loss of Rs500 million to the government.

Director General for Audit Maqbool Gondal told the committee that while awarding the contract for construction of the block some minor works had deliberately been deleted from the assignment list.

The project director then added the minor works to the list which almost doubled the initial cost.

Giving an example, he said that according to the initial estimate, the cost of dismantling service lines at the site was Rs900,000. The project director deleted this work from the list and it was later awarded to the same contractor at a cost of Rs2m.

The committee directed the special secretary of the ministry to inquire into the matter and recover the extra amount from the persons responsible.

The audit report further pointed out that the ministry, instead of assigning the repair works to the Public Works Department (PWD), hired a private firm and paid it Rs369m.

The ministry replied that after obtaining permission from the Capital Development Authority and the PWD in June 2012, it had sent a summary to the Prime Minister Secretariat, which was subsequently endorsed by the finance ministry.

But the audit officials insisted that the ministry had engaged the private firm in violation of the PWD code and the rules of business, and advised the committee to direct the foreign affairs secretary to fix responsibility for the ‘wrongdoing’.

The committee directed the ministry to provide the document of approval by the prime minister at its next meeting.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016

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