The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) has assigned the task to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the case of massive mismanagement in the import of olive plants from Spain, Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.
These irregularities were committed in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) project valued at over Rs 2 billion for the development of olive cultivation across the country.
The National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) in November last year awarded a tender to a company for providing 400,000 imported olive plants. Upon arrival, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) gave a go-ahead certificate for the distribution of these plants despite the fact that most of them were infected and undersized.
A senior official in the MNFSR told Pakistan Today that that after unearthing large-scale irregularities in the project, the matter was investigated but those responsible were not brought to book. So, the official said, the ministry eventually decided to formally move FIA to investigate the matter so as to fix responsibility and bring those responsible to account.
The tree plantation drive has already kicked off in the FATA and Potohar regions, because the climate of these areas is conducive for olive plantation.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal launched the Olive Plantation Project in October 2015 worth over Rs 2 billion to cultivate olive plants on more than 50,000 acres under Vision 2025.
While initiating the project by planting an olive tree in the ARID Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Ahsan Iqbal said that the olive trees would not only be a source of income, but would also help overcome deficiency of oil production as Pakistan was spending billions of rupees on oil imports.
The project was part of the PSDP aimed at promoting olive cultivation across the country to reduce the hefty edible oil import bill.
Initially, when the issue surfaced, the MNFSR constituted a six-member inquiry committee to determine the reasons and find the people responsible for the loss.
The committee unearthed mismanagement and lapses in the procurement process handled by NARC and the olive project management.
Iqbal, while planting an olive tree at the ARID University Rawalpindi on October, 2015, tweeted, “In ten years we intend olive plantations to be grown over thousands of acres to make Pakistan a major olive producing country.”
However, the official expressed apprehension that the entire project could be reversed owing to the irregularities, which would not only be a great loss to the national kitty, but would also a real blow to the environment related efforts.
The official went on to say that several senior officials could be sent behind bars for their involvement in misappropriation.