Debt inquiry commission finds all loan money going to Account No 1

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ISLAMABAD: Commission of Inquiry constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan four months back to investigate the use of loans taken from 2008-2018 has not yet found any case of loan-money going to the pocket of any key politician or bureaucrat. All receipts are instead found going to Account No. 1.

Informed sources said that the Commission has also not found so far any case of fraud and corruption. So far, it is said the major case being focused by the Commission is that of Karachi’s K-4 water project. It is said that the 13 years old K-4 project was hardly 10% complete but the recent rains in Karachi washed away the work done so far. K-4 project cost has risen from Rs25 billion to Rs150 billion because of delays.

The K-4 water project is a municipal infrastructure project being jointly developed by the provincial and federal governments, to augment the city’s daily water supply. The estimated cost was approximately Rs25.5 billion, while the project is designed to provide 650 million gallons of water daily to Karachi in three phases. The new water supply will be extracted from Keenjhar Lake through three water canals. The mega-project has seen consistent delays with the cost of construction rising manifold over the years.

The Commission sources said that so far the loan cases probed suggest that all the loan money was received in the Federal Consolidated Fund’s account known as Account No 1. The provinces, it is said also maintain their own Account No. 1 and they too have been receiving their receipts in the same account.

Thus the impression that the loan money whether local or foreign could be credited by any person in his personal account or could be received in cash does not carry any weight. According to a former finance secretary only a naïve could argue this because those who have understanding of the government working know that all government receipts go to Account No 1.

The Commission sources said that there are cases where the money received in the same Account No 1 for any particular project was spent on some other project, for debt servicing or to bridge fiscal deficit. The Commission, it is said, has interviewed innumerable officials but no one has said that the loan money has been misused or corrupted.

In view of this situation, the sources said, the Commission is reviewing major projects to ascertain if they were initiated in the public interest or not. The Commission is also reviewing the spending on projects by different provinces for a comparison.

A 12-member Commission of Inquiry constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan in June this year to investigate the use of loans taken from 2008 to 2018. The sources said that the review of the Commission will also cover fiscal year 2018-2019- the first year of PTI government.

The Commission, headed by reputed retired BS-22 officer of Police Service of Pakistan and Deputy Chairman NAB Husain Asghar, was formed on June 22 and asked to finalise its report within six months. It was mandated with fixing responsibility about any irregularity or illegality found during investigation and refer it to the relevant agency or department for prosecution.

The scope of expansion of the forum was provided in the notification which said the commission is empowered to engage any person from the public or private sector, locally and abroad, as a member, consultant or adviser for assistance.

The forum is inquiring and investigating the award or implementation of any contract or agreement or project and whether any debt was taken for a particular project or undertaking and the allocated money was then spent and expended on it or not.

It is examining whether the terms and conditions of any public contract were tainted or benevolent or artificially inflated to facilitate any kickbacks? If so, in whose favour?

The Commission is also looking into whether any holder of public office or their spouses, children and any persons connected to them expended any public funds so as to meet personal or private expenditures beyond what has been permitted under the law and rules.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who set up the commission, was curious to know why the total debts and liabilities of Pakistan, which were less than Rs7,000 billion in 2017, had risen to Rs30,000 in 2018 when the PML-N government completed its tenure.

The premier suspects that this enormous amount of debt were added by the last PPP and PML-N governments to multiply the fortunes of the top leaders of these parties.

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