LAHORE - The Punjab Irrigation Department (PID) has set a unique example of ‘accountability’ that other departments should better not emulate in any case.

Three officials of the department were accused of having caused the exchequer a loss of Rs520 million.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took up the matter but closed the inquiry for some reason. However, the anti-graft watchdog directed the irrigation department to take action against them. But, instead of doing the needful, the department posted them against more lucrative positions.

Those who were required to be proceeded against were former project director of Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC) PMU Riaz Rasheed, former director of finance at LBDC PMU Iftikhar Hussain Zaidi and former project director of LBDC PMU Mahmood ul Hassan.

The said officers were responsible for executing the work on LBDC, a foreign-funded project that could not give the desired results owing to massive corruption.

As per the statement of allegations, Rasheed, while posted as PD, committed certain irregularities. He is now enjoying most lucrative slot of chief engineer, Lahore. He is the custodian of billions of rupees budget in the Lahore irrigation zone. Other accused got jobs in other departments.

As per the statement of allegations against Zaidi, he too committed irregularities while posted as director at the project. According to the contract conditions, the contractor was required to submit a performance security from a scheduled bank of Pakistan at 10% accepted contract amount. He failed to exercise due diligence as deputy director Finance LBDC and accepted a fake performance bank guarantee for Rs210 million issued on behalf of Allied Bank of Pakistan, submitted by the contractor M/S SPARCO-CLIC.

As per the statement of allegations against Hassan, he was charged with certain irregularities. According to conditions of the contract, the contractor was required to submit performance security from a scheduled Bank of Pakistan at 10% of the accepted contract amount. He failed to exercise due diligence as PD LBDC and accepted a fake performance bank guarantee for Rs210 million issued on behalf of Allied Bank of Pakistan submitted by the contractor M/s SPARCO-CLIC.

Neither Secretary Asadullah Khan nor Services Secretary Farhan Aziz Khawaja were available to comment on the issue. Punjab government spokesperson Malik Ahmad Khan too didn’t respond when contacted.

Irrigation Minister Amanat Ullah Khan Shadi Khel told The Nation that he was not aware of the issue, but he would look into it and respond. However, he did not respond.

NAB official Zeshan defended the Bureau's decision to close the inquiry and refer the matter to the irrigation department, saying that the NAB in some cases refers the matter to FIA, Anti-Corruption Establishment or the administrative secretary with the direction to proceed against the said official as per the law. 

A senior officer of the S&GAD said that officers facing corruption could be posted as OSD or against less important slots. As per directions of the government issued in 2016, such officers can’t be posted against important slots.