By Abdul Rahman Khan
Due to mismanagement of the pool containing around 1,000 new and old vehicles in the Irrigation Department, irregularities are rising.
Out of the vehicles, one hundred and forty-four are brand new, including Fortuners and Revo double cabin, purchased by the department a couple of months ago. Informed sources revealed that the department, with the support of the World Bank, had procured new vehicles for Chief Engineers, Superintending Engineers and Executive Engineers a few months ago, while some new vehicles are yet to arrive. The foreign-aided Project Implementation Unit mainly procured these vehicles.
Buying vehicles was to maintain a smooth water flow to tail farmers, supervise water courses and control water theft. But, the vehicle issue system of the department is based at the department’s headquarters in Lahore. When former Secretary Capt Retired Saif Anjum bought these vehicles, he had prepared a mechanism for allotment along with a strict set of terms and conditions. Still, after Saif Anjum’s transfer, a deputy secretary Mehmood took the whole system into his hands.
A group of top bureaucrats nullified Mehmood’s transfer from the department, managed his promotion from section officer and are now lobbying for his three years extension as he retires in days to come. The said officer has been in the irrigation department for ages. A few inner sources revealed on the condition of anonymity that the vehicles were issued to officers who greased the palm of those concerned, ranging from one lakh or more. No one knows where the vehicles taken back from the field formations are kept. It has also come to light that some vehicles are present at the residences of the blue-eyed officers while some are distributed among their relatives.
Sources claimed that many vehicles were purchased in the last few years by PMO barrages, PMO canals, project implementation units, etc., sponsored by foreign funding to the province. World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), etc., are major donors. The Irrigation department purchased these vehicles for the project staff and consultants who supervised and executed the mega projects. The then SOG Mahmood also took a good number of vehicles purchased for projects in the past, and they allegedly were allotted to different officers after taking amounts of money.
They further claimed some vehicles in good condition were auctioned off or sold out after being declared junk. An officer lamented that It was strange the department did not maintain adequate records of its vehicles. There is no answer to questions like why these vehicles were issued without entitlement, how a junior officer managed such a big pool, and why there was no check on misuse of public resources. It was also alleged that some vehicles with private number plates were being driven on rent.
It has also been revealed that the most expensive vehicles, including two Fortuners and one new Revo Double Cabin, have been given to the secretary in addition to designated vehicles, and a new Revo Double Cabin to additional secretary admin. Astonishingly, the sub-divisional officer and section officer also managed to get such vehicles without entitlement, while they were registered in someone else’s name in the record, as sources disclosed. It was also learnt that the administration of the Irrigation department should have given some field officers the vehicles for whom the department bought as these vehicles were presented to the higher authorities.
Sources further said that the mismanagement and misuse of official vehicles are leading to poor performance of the field formations. It has also been learnt that some top-level bureaucrats in Punjab have been protecting the corrupt mafia in the department. They have been beneficiaries of the pool and POL, as alleged. Some honest officers have requested Chief Minister Punjab Parvez Elahi and Chief Secretary Punjab Abdullah Khan Sumbal to constitute a high-level committee to investigate the case of 1,000 vehicles. They also asked the Director General Anti-Corruption Nadeem Sarwar to investigate the issue to uproot the cause of ongoing mega corruption so that the department can save millions of rupees in the public exchequer.
It is not the story of the Irrigation department. All and sundry plunder public vehicles. There is a need to monetize the vehicle policy to curtail and abolish the vehicle mafia in bureaucracy. For more read https://republicpolicy.com/it-is-the-civilian-bureaucracy-that-rules-pakistan/