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PAC okays unauthorised arms deal between intel agency, motorway police

PAC okays unauthorised arms deal between intel agency, motorway police

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from a PML-N lawmaker, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday hastily settled a para regarding an unauthorised weapons deal between Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP).

The committee had taken up NHMP’s audit report for the year 2013-2014, and the fact that the ISI was in the business of selling arms surprised several members of the PAC. The audit report termed it “irregular expenditure on purchase of arms and ammunition”.

According to the audit report, NHMP “incurred an expenditure of Rs11.26 million on purchase of arms and ammunition from the ISI out of Road Safety Campaigns, Performance Reward Fund during 2013-2014.”

The ISI sold 500 sub-machine guns (SMGs) and 136,000 SMG 7.62mm rounds to NHMP.

Mushahid Hussain settles audit para despite opposition from ruling party lawmaker

Although the PAC meeting was chaired by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, it was Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed who was in the chair when the contentious audit para was tabled for discussion. Other PPP lawmakers also abstained from the discussion.

When members wondered about the source of the arms stockpile, the chair tried to offer an easy answer, saying they could be from unused stock procured during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.

Senator Hussain hastily settled the para, ignoring the mandatory recommendation of the Departmental Accounts Committee, according to which NHMP was supposed to “obtain ex-post facto approval for utilising the Road Safety Campaigns, Performance Reward Fund”. Without ex-post facto approval, PAC cannot settle the para.

But ruling party Senator Chaudhry Tanveer Khan strongly urged Senator Hussain to order an inquiry into the matter. He said the ISI was an esteemed organization, but it was not its job to sell weapons, and suggested that the agency should explain whether they were authorised to sell the arms and how they procured them.

Senator Hussain, however, insisted that there was no need to hold an inquiry.

This did not go down well with Senator Tanveer. “I cannot understand why we feel insecure,” he said, adding: “Had it been any other institution, the inspector general of police (IGP) would have been given exemplary punishment.”

When Senator Hussain insisted that NHMP was an excellent and organised institution, Chaudhry Tanveer said such actions could erode the foundations of the organisation.

“Your point is taken,” replied Senator Hussain, and settled the para without even directing NHMP to take ex-post facto approval for the deal.

Audit objections

In its objections, the audit report stated: “the arms and ammunitions were not purchased from Pakistan Ordnance Factory (POF), Wah [the authorised vendor]… items were purchased without open competition and without fulfilling other requirements of the Public Procurement Rules 2004… [while] the supplier (ISI) was neither a manufacturer nor authorised arms dealer or a general order supplier… [and] the expenditure could not be incurred from the Road Safety Campaigns, Performance Reward Fund… [which was] not recouped by obtaining supplementary grant”.

The report further said: “the audit is of the view that procurement without open competition deprived the government of the benefits of competitive rates and due taxes” and “procurement of arms and ammunition from an unauthorised source also resulted in the possibility of procuring outdated arms and ammunition and depriving the government of the benefit of better quality and effective warranty”.

As per the audit report, NHMP replied that the “required arms and ammunition were not being manufactured by POF, Wah. ISI was approached by the IGP for provision of SMG 7.62mm and its ammunition. The rates offered by ISI were found most economical.”

But auditors maintained “the reply was not accepted because the POF, Wah also manufactures quality 7.62mm arms and ammunition, while ISI is not an authorised arms dealer. Further in case the NHMP did not desire to purchase arms and ammunition from POF Wah, it was required to resort to open competition [under] Public Procurement Rules 2004”.

The audit report “recommends that the matter may be investigated and responsibility be fixed for the irregularity, besides determining the quality and useful life of the arms and ammunition purchased”.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2017

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