While giving a detailed presentation to the Standing Committee on Industries and Production General Manager National Fertiliser Marketing Company (NFML) Qudratullah revealed that 1.6 billion rupee worth of 38,398 metric tons imported urea was stolen from the warehouses by ‘deputationists’.
The quantity of stolen urea is simply mind-blowing, as urea is not a product that can be surreptitiously placed in one’s pockets after ensuring that no one is looking. And therefore the instinctive conclusion is that theft of such a large quantity of urea from any warehouse is not possible without the active connivance of the staff of the NFML.
Qudratullah’s identification of “deputationists” as those culpable for stealing the urea must therefore be appreciated, however, one would assume that unless the number of deputationists is large enough there may be some complicity of the non-deputationists.
In this context, it is relevant to recall that in May 2014, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) revealed in a press release that it recovered 104.58 million rupees after investigating employees and contractors of NFML who had embezzled imported urea fertiliser from warehouses located in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. NFML, in the first phase, was paid 78.4 million rupees.
However, the recovery rate is too low and many criticise NAB for making deals that enable the accused to pay a very small percentage of the ill-gotten wealth and thenceforth clearing his name.
Qudratullah further revealed that NAB and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) are investigating the matter and highlighted seven cases that are being investigated by NAB which include: (i) Cartage Contractors; (ii) Ms Trans Global; (iii) unauthorised booking of urea; (iv) Shahmeer Tally – labour and security service contractor; (v) M/s Sindh Goods; (vi) NFML Temporary Store Quetta; and (vii) former Deputy General Manager, Uzair Abu Bakr. FIA, he added, when asked, was investigating cases against those who made billions during the tenure of the former PPP-led coalition government in 2009-10.
When Qudratullah was asked whether the Minister for Industries and Production Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi was implicated in any of these scams he categorically denied it.
While this does generate a comfort level in the public namely that the minister is not involved in theft and/or other forms of corruption yet in this context two elements need to be highlighted. First, a minister is not discharging his responsibilities simply by not being actively engaged in corruption; his terms of reference include his being able to effectively supervise and/or monitor the staff which reports to him.
This aspect of his responsibility he performs through the Secretary of his ministry who is senior bureaucrat. Therefore the secretary who is also the principal accounting officer under the rules of business of the government of Pakistan should also be held accountable for dereliction of duty.
The PML-N government has defended itself during its current tenure by maintaining that mega scams that were routine during the tenure of the previous government are a thing of the past but what it has been unable to defend is failure to improve governance in ministries as well as taking technically flawed decisions (Nandipur comes to mind) whose onus must rest with the relevant minister.
And secondly, one in defence of politically less powerful ministers like Jatoi, is the lament that they do not have the decision-making authority to appoint staff on merit, as there is constant intervention from the more powerful cabinet members not excluding the prime minister. This in turn leads to the appointees taking decisions that the minister himself cannot challenge. This too must change and each minister must be held responsible for the performance of his ministry.
Source: Business Recorder