–Inland Water Transport Development Company one of Punjab’s 56 companies being probed by NAB
ISLAMABAD: Transportation through the great Indus River continues to be a dream for many as ex-Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, prior to his departure, granted the approval to close the Inland Water Transport Development Company (IWTDC) despite spending Rs1.13 billion over it, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Sources informed that even though an audit of the accounts of IWTDC was carried out by the auditor general of Pakistan and the National Accountancy Bureau (NAB) investigation was in full swing, the outgoing Punjab government, under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif, approved the closure of IWTDC on the last day of its constitutional tenure.
They said that with the closure of IWTDC, the dream of inland water transportation from Karachi to Naushera might not come true in the near future as IWTDC has now been asked to hand over its assets to the Irrigation Department.
“More than one billion rupees were transferred from the accounts of Irrigation Department on the advice of the then Punjab CM and boats and other necessary equipment was procured with this amount,” said the sources.
They said that instead of taking a severe action against the culprits responsible for irregularities worth Rs1.13 billion, pointed out by the auditor general over a serious violation of PPRA Rules, ex-Punjab CM closed the company.
It has also been learnt that IWTDC has procured 25 small and big boats for the Daud Khel to Attock pilot project and appointed more than 100 employees and consultants on lucrative pay packages and benefits. However, IWTDC has failed to make the project successful despite the lapse of four years.
NAB has currently been investigating a scandal of 56 companies of Punjab and IWTDC is one of them.
According to the audit inspection report on the accounts of IWTDC for the years 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, Shehbaz appointed Naeem Sarfraz as the first chairman of IWTDC board of directors while affairs of the company were managed without a chief executive officer (CEO). Meanwhile, the board of directors chairman was found working in the capacity of the CEO, which is a violation of rule 4 of the public sector companies act.
Similarly, the company administration hired the services on contracts at a fixed pay package ranging from Rs125,000 to Rs350,000 per month. A total amount of Rs51.692 million was paid to employees from August 1, 2014, till October 30, 2017, but the salary packages and other conditions of their contract was not sent from the administration department to the finance department, which is an irregularity.
Likewise, IWTDC, in a bid to obtain six work (tug) boats, gave advertisement in newspapers on June 6, 2015, and awarded the contract to the second lowest bidder, which is also injustice and violation of section 57 and rules 38 of PPRA Rules that caused a loss to the tune of Rs14 million.
Documents further show that Shehbaz Sharif as the Punjab CM, while approving the establishment of the company, approved a pilot project – Inland Navigation Daud Khel to Attock –without feasibility study of the project. Even though an amount of Rs381 million has been spent on this pilot project, it is far away from the accomplishment of its goal.
IWTDC was established in 2014 with an aim to ensure transportation of goods from Port Qasim to Naushera and promote tourism within the Indus River area.
An official at IWTDC, on the condition of anonymity, told this scribe that former provincial cabinet of Punjab had approved the closure of Inland Water Transport Development Company on the last day of its meeting. He said the caretaker government has been requested to restore the company and avoid heavy losses to the taxpayers.
It is worth mentioning that a 176-kilometer long pilot project on River Indus from Daud Khel to Attock was about to achieve success, but the transport mafia allegedly created hurdles in its way as the project was a cheap source of transportation.
Inland water transport has been a standard form of transport in every country for centuries, but in Pakistan, over the last 70 years, several feasibility studies, workshops and seminar have taken place to no avail.