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NAB investigates motorway contracts: Another headache for Nawaz & Co?


News Desk |

The National Accountability Bureau, after ascertaining the irregularities in the award of Rs 148 billion motorway project during the inquiry, has decided to send the case to the next step of the investigation.

According to the sources, award the contract of Karachi Lahore Motorway (KLM) in 2015 during Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s government by gross violations of rules, allegedly caused Rs 14 bn losses to the national exchequer. The contract was awarded to a joint venture of a local firm ZKB and the China Railway-20 Bureau Group Corporation in Aug 2015.

It is believed that the NHA could have saved Rs24bn if the project would have been awarded on merits according to the instruction of bidders (IoB) or clauses of the contract.

Earlier, in Feb this year, Chairman Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal had directed NAB Director General Rawalpindi to conduct a detailed inquiry against NHA officials for their abuse of authority, lack of transparency, and awarding the contract of constructing Karachi-Lahore Motorway on higher rates, he directed to thoroughly probe the allegations.

The inquiry had been started on the basis of a complaint of the Transparency International (TI) and some evidence collected by NAB during a Complaint Verification (CV) process. The NAB usually orders an inquiry into a case when it finds some credible evidence of corruption during the CV process and when the inquiry shows wrongdoings, an investigation is launched.

Read more: Universal accountability: NAB probes into motorway project corruption

Interestingly, the global NGO Transparency International (TI) had lodged the complaint of alleged corruption in the project two years ago during the PML-N government. The former chairman of NAB, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry did not take any action as reportedly he was quite close to Nawaz Sharif.

The Lahore-Karachi motorway project is a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The NHA invited bids for the project and awarded it to the joint venture of China Railway 20 Bureau and ZKB of Pakistan at a cost of Rs148.654bn.

It is believed that the NHA could have saved Rs24bn if the project would have been awarded on merits according to the instruction of bidders (IoB) or clauses of the contract.

A lot of ongoing cases against PML-N leadership are based on awarding contracts illegally, abusing the authority. The fact, that former NAB chairman avoided inquiry into the case during PML-N’s government, speaks volume itself.

According to the sources, the Frontier Works’ Organization (FWO) was not allowed to participate in the bidding process by the NHA management on the ground that the FWO was already engaged in several other massive projects and thus would be overburdened though it submitted the lowest bid of Rs134 billion (Rs14 billion less than the accepted bid of Rs148 billion).

Some of the bidders had lodged complaints with the NHA that the successful bidder had reduced quantities and work materials amounting to Rs10 billion without reducing the cost of the project and that would cause the extra burden of Rs10 billion to the national exchequer.

Read more: FWO providing relief to travellers stranded on Motorway

As the investigations by NAB start, if inquiry reveals corruption and malpractices, it seems another case is expected to be referred and filed soon. A lot of ongoing cases against PML-N leadership are based on awarding contracts illegally, abusing the authority. The fact, that former NAB chairman avoided inquiry into the case during PML-N’s government, speaks volume itself.

Given the NAB being active against corruption and involvement of PML-N in all the cases, it seems like Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary was probably right that 2018 elections were the last elections for PML-N.

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