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Sasti Roti scheme caused irregular expenditure of Rs1bn – by Aftab Maken

Originally Published at THENEWS

The much touted Sasti Roti (cheap bread) scheme of the Punjab’s `Khadim-e-Aala’ (chief minister) has caused irregular expenditure of Rs1.06 billion from the national kitty, reveals an audit report of the Director- General of Audit, Punjab.

The Punjab Food Department has conducted financial irregularities of Rs514.914 billion in non-budgetary and other matters in FY2008-09 while it also did not settle paras of Rs60 million of the last financial year.

The observations are largely related to Chief Minister’s major schemes that include of Sasti Roti, irregular expenditures on budgetary and non-budgetary items, purchase of jute bags at higher rates and higher wheat transportation contracts to the favourite parties are some of major financial irregularities of the Food Department.

Coalition government of PPP and PML-N in Punjab had budget of Rs209.361 billion in 2008-2009 and its total expenditure for the whole financial year was Rs215.032bn.

The audit observed that supply of subsidised flour to tandoors in Sasti Roti Scheme was grossly violated, as reference of authority was not given in the sanction orders. In case of Lahore, the Towns Committees officials like naib qasids, electricians, building / tax inspectors received subsidised flour. Also the claims were not supported by the acknowledgements of tandoor operators and owners. The flourmills were paid subsidy on the rates fixed by the DCO instead of Government.

The Purchase Cell has purchased huge number of jute and PP bags more than requirement during wheat scheme 2008-09 and 7,939,799 jute bags and 23,278,964 PP bags sufficient for 1,957,928 metric tons of wheat remained untouched at the close of wheat scheme 2008-09. This extra purchase of wheat PP and jute bags caused a loss of Rs998 million to the exchequer.

Contrary to special powers of Food Department, Directorate entered into contracts with NLC on TCP transportation rates plus 7 per cent service charges for transportation of imported wheat from Karachi/Gwadar to various districts of the Punjab without any tender enquiry and negotiation and exploring the other cheaper means of transportation like railways and private transporters by inviting tenders leading to Rs1.078bn irregular expenditure.

Punjab Food Directorate made an advance payment of Rs204 million to NLC as 50 per cent transportation charges for the supply of 154,000 metric tons of imported wheat from Karachi to various Districts of Punjab, but no ledger/ register were maintained in this regard in Food Directorate.

Awarding a contract to NLC for the transportation of wheat at higher rates than the lower bidders caused a loss of Rs163million and later, the NCL sublet the contracts to private contractors like Syed Abdul Wali at lower rates and got the work done.

The Audit also observed that Director Food Punjab also suffered a loss of Rs50 million for payment of transport charges for imported wheat that were 1.99 per cent higher than what NWFP Food Department paid.

During 2008-09 expenditure of Rs215.032bn was incurred for procurement, storage, transportation and sale of wheat by borrowing cash accommodation from commercial banks, own sources and government grants.

Early sale of surplus wheat can definitely decrease the burden of mark up / interest and warehousing expenses, damage of wheat, etc. which are the main players to increase the incidental charges on per metric ton of wheat. Extra interest payments were causing loss of Rs7.172bn to the government, the audit pointed out.

The audit further revealed that expenditure of Rs3.94bn incurred as interest payments but the relevant information /record cannot be authenticated.

Punjab supplied wheat to other provinces in the past, but Rs583m are still recoverable from them as Rs615 million and Rs886m from Baluchistan and NWFP respectively was lying with the department.

Non working of the networking indicated that Rs58 million expended on the computerization of the Food Department had gone waste especially in the modern era where computer technology is changing rapidly.

For the wheat procurement scheme 2009-10, the audit observed that non reconciliation of departmental figures of wheat procurement with cash payments by banks suffered a loss of Rs 822,272 to the government.

The record relating to the sale of wheat of 700,876 tones to flourmills had no proper documentation.

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Farhad Jarral

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