Luxury cars rendering ‘defense services’
NLC bigwigs imported seven Land Cruisers twisting rules. PAC Chairman Nisar Ali Khan sitting on inquiry report against the four generals for six months
The NLC bosses are already facing Rs 4 billion mega financial scam.
by Rauf Klasra
ISLAMABAD: Top guns at GHQ-run National Logistic Cell (NLC) have been caught committing a fraud costing the Government of Pakistan and country’s taxpayers millions of rupees. Quietly under the pretext of ‘‘Defense Services,” some NLC bigwigs imported seven duty-free luxury 3000cc Toyota Land Cruisers worth over Rs10 million. These vehicles were imported for personal use in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. However, even when caught red handed, all powerful military elite involved in the scam has been let off the hook.
The official documents available with this correspondent reveal that these luxury Land Cruisers are now used by some of the junior NLC officials. Under the rules, these junior officials were not even authorized to travel by 3000cc vehicles. Interestingly, even a federal minister is not permitted to use an official car with an engine sized over 1600cc. But the uniformed NLC officials have been using 3000cc cars, imported without paying a penny to the national exchequer as tax otherwise levied on Pakistani citizens for importing luxury cars.
The NLC bosses are already facing Rs 4 billion mega financial scam. Reportedly funds worth Rs 4 billion were invested in country’s volatile stock markets in defiance of the orders, passed by the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, stating not to invest in stocks as it was not their area of expertise to throw money in such unpredictable business. Even recently appointed Director General NLC, Major General Junaid, made a confession before the Public Accounts Committee the other day that “several wrong decisions” were made by his predecessors in the past in fact played havoc with NLC’s financial health. The inquiry report into the scam involving four top military generals—three lieutenant generals and one major general—at the helm of NLC from 2003-2004 to 2007-2008, is presently lying with the office of Chairman Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Ch. Nisar Ali Khan. The PAC chairman has not yet initiated any action on the basis of this report despite a lapse of six months. Nisar Ali Khan, known as more-talk-less-action kind of person, is under pressure from his own committee colleagues to make the secret inquiry report public ever since the media have targeted Nisar Ali Khan for sitting on the inquiry report against the four military generals for the last six months.
Meanwhile, the official documents show that the scam about importing seven duty free vehicles by NLC bosses, surfaced when recently the annual audit of NLC accounts was conducted. During the audit, it was revealed that under the standard official procedures, the NLC officers, except the Director General, were authorized vehicles up to 1600cc. But in clear violation of these rules, it was disclosed that certain NLC officers were allocated Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (3000cc) for their use. The audit team brought this huge irregularity to the notice of the top NLC management. The audit team could not see a reason for junior officers using 3000cc Prados. To the surprise of the audit team, the top NLC guns came out with preposterous excuses justifying the misuse of Prado 3000cc luxury vehicles by junior officers otherwise not entitled for their use. The NLC management replied to the shocked auditors that actually NLC had started a reform project for education and health sectors and the area of operation was spread all over the Punjab province where certain far flung places and remote areas were not easily accessible. Another justification for the use of 3000cc cars by senior executive officers was to exercise effective control and supervision of these projects. In practice, these luxury cars were under use in Rawalpindi-Islamabad or during merry making trips to certain hilly stations. In a country like Pakistan, such excuses are often provided to justify the illegal actions by the authoritative elite. Hence, the audit team unsurprisingly was not satisfied with such implausible justifications.
As the audit team further probed the matter, it was revealed that the NLC had actually cheated the Government of Pakistan when it had shown the import of these luxury vehicles as part of “defense services” which definitely was not the case. How luxury cars imported in the name of education and health could project (even if one tends to agree with the NLC’s viewpoint), be declared part of “defense services”? The Customs department was sent a certificate by the NLC officials which read: “These stores were imported by central government for Defense Services and will be paid out of Defense Budget which is exempted custom duty and sales tax”.
When the matter landed in the Public Accounts Committee last Monday, even the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) that usually prefers to show zero tolerance for any reported misuse of such luxury vehicles by civil officials and recommends heavy fines. However, the AGP was found meekly asking the PAC members to merely seek an explanation from the NLC management. The AGP did not demand recovery of Rs. 10million in addition to payment of duty payable on these luxury cars and disciplinary action against those who committed a daylight fraud. One official commented: ‘‘Even the AGP office knows perfectly well as how to ‘behave’ when it comes to dealing with the military men caught red handed cheating the government by duty free import of luxury vehicles in the name of defense service’’.