The Sindh High Court on Thursday took exception to inaction against government officers who benefited from the National Accountability Bureau’s voluntary return (VR) scheme, and directed the chief secretary to file an affidavit and a report by May 22 on action taken so far.
Hearing bail petitions of district account officer Ghulam Mustafa and others in corruption cases, a division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro observed that Sindh government had not complied with the orders of the court in letter and spirit.
The court observed that the chief secretary (CS) had also not filed his affidavit to the effect that no officer who benefited from the VR scheme was posted at the government office of the province and that departmental proceedings had been initiated against them.
The bench took notice of the appointment of government officer Syed Mehdi Ali Shah as secretary of the social welfare workers department despite the fact that he entered into a VR agreement and departmental proceedings had been initiated against them.
Additional Advocate General Mustafa Mahesar submitted that departmental proceedings had been completed against the officer and he was fined with a minor penalty by withholding his increment. He also sought time to file a compliance report and an affidavit from the chief secretary.
The court expressed surprise over the conduct of the competent authority and the inquiry officer, saying that the person who chose the VR scheme option by admitting his guilt had been given a minor penalty and given an important posting as secretary of the social welfare workers department. The court observed that only zero tolerance could end corruption in the country and officers who went for the VR scheme could not be allowed to work in their offices at the same posts.
The court directed the chief secretary to place on record the departmental proceedings of the secretary who imposed a minor penalty. It also directed the chief secretary to place on record the correspondence with the secretary establishment to take departmental proceedings against former finance secretary Syed Hasan Naqvi on account of his VR and status of departmental proceedings pending against him before the establishment department.
The chief secretary was further told to file a fresh report showing the progress of disciplinary proceedings pending against those who went for the VR schemes from September 26 to date. The additional secretary had earlier informed the court that all officers who benefited from NAB’s VR scheme had been removed from their posts and departmental proceedings had been initiated against them.
Filing a compliance report, the additional secretary submitted that 477 government employees from 13 departments who opted for the VR scheme had been removed from their posts and disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against them.
According to the report, the government initiated disciplinary proceedings against 216 officers while action could not be initiated against 172 officers. The report stated that 11 government officers were awarded minor penalties while 28 were given major penalties, adding that proceedings against 13 officers were under way. The report stated that 29 officers had retired while eight officers had expired.