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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

NAB arrests Multan metro project director and others on corruption charges

News Analysis |

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has arrested six officials of the Multan Metro Bus Project (MMBP) on Thursday over alleged corruption in the mega-project. According to the press release, the accountability watchdog nabbed former director general Sabir Khan Sadozai, Director Engineering Nazir Ahmed Chughtai, sub-divisional officers Manzoor Hussain, XEN Rana Khalid, and XEN Rana Wasim and Munam Saeed.

The anti-graft agency raided the offices of the Metro Multan and confiscated important record. The accused would be presented before accountability court Friday (today) and the physical remand of the accused will be requested from the Judge. The accountability watchdog is investigating the alleged scam of Rs2 billion in the MMBP. Former director Sodozai who was reappointed as a technical advisor after his retirement from MDA is accused of allegedly receiving remuneration and all the perks of an officer of BS-20.

The accountability court cases should be run on a fast-track basis to ensure speedy trails and culprits should be given exemplary punishments for a role in alleged corruption and embezzlement.

The inquiry into the alleged corruption was started in December 2017 at the behest of the NAB chairman. Earlier, a Senate panel had probed the matter pertaining to the alleged corruption of $17.5 million in the MMBP. The Senate panel discovered that there was a link between a top official of the China-based Yabaite Technology Company Limited with the Yabaite Pakistan Construction Group Private Limited and illegal money was transferred to China. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance alleged that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has been hiding facts and documents relating to alleged corruption in the MMBP.

After collecting enough evidence of alleged corruption, the Senate panel transferred the case to NAB. Former Punjab government showed some resistance and created hurdles for NAB in collecting the record related to the project. The estimated cost of the 37-kilometer long route for the Metro buses was Rs35 billion and it was supposed to be collected in two phases. In the first phase, the government decided to only start the first phase at the cost of staggering Rs28.37 billion and eventually completed it at Rs32 billion.

read more: Metro Bus Multan scandal turning into Shahbaz’s Panamagate?

The officials also are accused of auctioning contracts to the companies at low rates and obliging a defaulted contractor. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spearheaded the fancy, and glittery projects to woo the voters on the name of development. The urban centers surely need such mass-transit facilities, but the transparency of these mega-projects is crucial in a country like Pakistan—where these projects are pursued on foreign loans. Most of these projects get a subsidy in the developed countries, but in Pakistan, high subsidy projects like metro cost billions to tax-payers annually.

Amid the allegations of rampant corruption in these mega projects—whose cost always increases extravagantly makes these project suspicious. The incumbent government has announced to start the audit of these projects. Some experts have advised the Punjab government to increase the travel cost for the passengers and reduce the subsidy on metro buses in this debt-ridden country—which is on brink of financial collapse.

read more: NAB chairman orders inquiry into BRT project

It is easy to say now to increase the ticket price to reduce the losses, but, why the previous regime continued the operation of these buses at such low rates incurring losses of billions. The accountability court cases should be run on a fast-track basis to ensure speedy trails and culprits should be given exemplary punishments for a role in alleged corruption and embezzlement.