*Audit report for financial year 2013-14 cites embezzlements, violation of rules, unauthorised occupation of public land and related malpractices in PAF
ISLAMABAD: The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has detected serious financial irregularities exceeding Rs 30 billion, including embezzlements, violation of rules, unauthorised occupation of public land and related malpractices, in the annual accounts of Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
In its audit report for the financial year 2013-14 on the PAF accounts, the AGP has found that unauthorised expenditure exceeding Rs 25 billion has been incurred by the PAF authorities in terms of awarding an illegal consultancy contract to a private firm to execute a highly classified project. Moreover, the AGP has highlighted six instances related to unauthorised or illegal occupation of public land by the PAF that caused the national exchequer a loss of Rs 355 million in the last financial year.
According to the audit report, the PAF awarded contract number 08/2008 in an ‘unauthorised, illegal and incompetent’ manner, valued at Rs 429.234 million, to Kashif Aslam & Associates Private Limited for the development of PAF Base Shahbaz in Jacobabad, instead of awarding this contract to Military Engineering Services (MES), that is the competent authority to carry out such sensitive contracts in the defence sector. The project’s initial cost was Rs 7 billion but escalated to a total cost of Rs 25 billion under highly questionable circumstances amid alleged financial foul play committed by the PAF officials in collusion with the consultant.
The audit reveals that the award of the contract was not only illegal, it was a serious breach of the security protocol as well, since awarding a highly sensitive contract in defence sector to a private firm was in stark violation of rules. “As per the rules, only MES is responsible for such sophisticated and secret construction works of defence services but PAF assumed unlawfully the mandate of MES for this project,” the audit report observed. Initially, the audit report notes, Project Shahbaz was approved by the prime minister at a cost of Rs 7 billion, to be completed in two years by January 2010. But the project was extended for two more years till December 2011. Now the project’s cost has been raised to Rs 25.489 billion and is scheduled to be completed in 2014-15. The AGP recommends “immediate termination of existing consultancy contract, fix responsibility of such unlawful award of contract, recover full amount paid to the contractor and deposit the same into government treasury.” It also recommends “immediate stoppage of such unlawful practices for Project Shahbaz as well as for other upcoming similar projects of the armed forces for optimum use of precious government assets and human resources to ensure transparency, economy, efficiency and secrecy.”
The audit report mentions several instances that the financial irregularities in the PAF’s accounts were repeatedly brought to the notice of Air Headquarters (AHQ) in Islamabad as well as to the officials concerned but the PAF management failed to offer a satisfactory reply in this regard.
In one such instance, the national exchequer faced an enormous loss of Rs 414 million due to the unauthorised air movement of non-duty passengers in C-130 aircraft at PAF Faisal Base Karachi. The movement mostly involved the families and near and dear ones of PAF officers.“The loss was reported to the base commander, PAF Faisal Base Karachi, to which it was replied that the movement of non-duty passengers is authorised to give incentive to defence personnel on fill-up basis. Reply furnished by PAF is misleading and not tenable — containing no provision for free of cost movement of non-duty passengers,” the audit report observes.
Moreover, Rs 20 million were lost due to non-deposit of rent into government treasury recovered from officers who stayed at officers’ residential premises at PAF Noor Khan Base Chaklala. The residential facility is known as Visiting Officers Quarters (VAQ) and is run by the AHQ, Islamabad.