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Contract Awarding by Bureaucracy; A Story of Smart Corruption

moral crisis in Punjab bureaucracy
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A story by Anwer Hussain Sumra

Vulnerable and poor accountability mechanism invites looting and plundering of public kitty and resources. Normally the people sitting in power corridors do this dirty business with the support of system tools in place. These people include politicians, bureaucrats, security agencies, top brass and jurists, as they have easy access to the public kitty. In third-world counties like Pakistan, the system supports them in fulfilling their desires without any fears of social rapture and accountability norms. In such societies, they dictate social norms and ethics and respect earning tools according to their own designs. The bureaucrats who enjoy the skills of playing with files, lip service, words and sentiments can easily do corruption and malpractice jobs with the public exchequer and resources. For their desires and satisfaction, they loot public resources so smartly that no one can notice to complain about such wrongdoings at appropriate forums. Sometimes watchdog agencies facilitate them under the banner of conflict-of-interest policy. Even the public remains unaware of such bleeding of resources to raise their voice against it. Hence, awarding Contracts, signing of MoU and collaborative announcements are the most important thing to happen.

The bureaucrats feel that looting of national resources is their right established after joining of civil service. The glaring example is the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) leased out its prime land sprawling over 22 Kanals adjacent to The Mall at Bagh-e-Jinnah in 2005 to a serving bureaucrat now retired (Rao Iftikhar Ahmed). It was leased out at the rate of Rs.52 per Kanal, where the lessee is doing Lawn Tennis sport business activities on a commercial basis. It was revealed that on the directions of the Punjab government, the deputy director Bagh-e-Jinnah signed an agreement on 1st January 2005 with a private party to lease out 22 Kanals lash green land to establish tennis courts. The aims behind the lease were to provide opportunities to citizens for physical training and sports activities and impart tennis training among the young aspirants. According to the agreement, the government reserved the right to revise the rent at a market value at any time, but it was not done even after 18 years because the beneficiary was/is a retired bureaucrat. The lessee established four each Astroturf and grassy Tennis lawns to impart pieces of training to the young on a commercial basis. The management is taking Rs.3000 fee from trainees, and the coach is charged Rs.10,000 to 20,000 from each trainee on a monthly basis. Around 50 students get training daily, whereas 30 mature people play tennis in this facility. The management also organized national and international Tennis events on the site annually to fetch a million per month, whereas public kitty receives in thousands only as rent. The PHA management did not bother to revise the rent, whereas the lessee was earning millions from players, stakeholders and sponsors annually. The business is going on smoothly as the lessee is a retired bureaucrat, and PHA is headed by an in-service bureaucrat. Both are playing with national resources under the banner of conflict-of-interest policy.

The same is the second story of corruption as PHA in the same vicinity leased out 48 Kanals of land at the rent rate of Rs.0.56 per Kanal monthly. This agreement was signed in 1980, and the lessee is paying Rs.900 of the total land annually. The lessee is a bureaucrat heading Punjab administrative set-up now (Abdul Khan Sumbal). The management established Cricket Club and provided training facilities and matches on a commercial basis. The club has 10,000 members also. Some International cricket matches were also organized on the ground. Even after 44 years of the lease agreement, the PHA does not revise the agreement on a market basis, whereas the management of the club earns millions per year while extending sports and training facilities to the aspirants. The PHA can earn million while revision of agreement on market-based rates after the competitive process but have no will to do so because the person sitting on top wants to please his present and ex-bosses. The same is the stories with other government sector entities where some giants are eating cream without fear of accountability and punishment.
If this practice of looting continues, who will be held responsible? There is a need for a strong accountability mechanism and vibrant watchdog system to hold accountable men sitting in power corridors and involved in corruption, nepotism and abuse of authority.

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