Aitzaz says private firm can’t audit corruption charges.
Opposition lawmakers in the Senate have termed the Nandipur power project a ‘mega scandal’ and, rejecting an audit by a private firm, demanded an investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said on Wednesday that a private audit firm could not investigate into corruption charges. However, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif had already offered the upper house of parliament to appoint any investigative body.
NAB should investigate under the criminal law, Ahsan said during a discussion sought by members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over “non-production of even a single megawatt of electricity at the Nandipur power project despite spending billions of rupees of the public exchequer”.
“We don’t accept the audit being conducted by Ferguson (the audit firm),” said the opposition leader, “and I warn the firm not to whitewash the misappropriated money.”
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He claimed that the Sharif family had a habit of whitewashing its wrongdoings, “be it the cooperative banks scandal or the Supreme Court attack case”. He asked the government to come clean, saying that allegations about the Nandipur project, LNG, solar power project and Metro bus project were very serious. He added that the matter relating to these projects was not technical but of corruption. “There is no way to escape it.”
Mohsin Aziz of the PTI said: “The Nandipur power project is a complete failure and [shows the] incompetence of the government.” He said that first the plant was dual-powered (furnace and diesel), and now the government wanted to run it on gas.
PPP Senator Sassui Palijo proposed that the matter be referred to the relevant standing committee for further probe and discussion.
In response, Asif hit hard at the opposition leader. He claimed that Ahsan’s wife got quota of LPG from the same source that gave quota to two former chairpersons of NAB, adding that both were lieutenant generals. “He (Ahsan) has a very old love affair with NAB…. if I were to disclose his party’s opinion about him, he would be embarrassed.”
The minister said NAB was already probing one aspect of the matter on the recommendations of the apex court’s commission. “If NAB wants to expand the scope of the investigation, I have no objection.”
He admitted that the contractor had established an undersized fuel oil treatment plant, which was the major issue in the efficiency of the plant. “We’re trying to contract out operation and management of the project to an international firm.”
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He said the PC-I of Rs59 billion was prepared much before the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government took over, adding that the current administration carried it out without any changes because 65 per cent of the project had already been completed. “Our target was to complete the remaining 35 per cent of the project to produce 425MW.”
Responding to a call-attention notice about a special cell at The Pentagon for defence ties with India, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said the cell was established for defence and trade purposes under an agreement.
“We had conveyed our concerns about India to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Pakistan ahead of President [Barack] Obama’s visit to India,” said Aziz. “PM Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the United Nations General Assembly was also reflective of Pakistan’s concerns towards India.”
He also clarified that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project was not against any country, adding that Pakistan’s ties with China were on geopolitical basis.
Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said that after consultation with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the government should bring a draft bill in the next session to give legal cover to the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, or the relevant standing committee should prepare the draft in consultation with the ministry.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2015.