ISLAMABAD: The government has taken up the import of substandard wheat for the benefit of suppliers during the previous administration of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to fix responsibility for causing a loss of Rs10.9 billion to national coffers, documents suggest.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has put all the blame on officers of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) and has not touched high-ups of the PPP government.
The matter came up for discussion in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on November 25.
According to documents, participants of the meeting recalled that while considering a summary about the supply of imported wheat from Karachi to provinces, the ECC in January 2009 had directed the National Accountability Bureau and the FIA to speed up investigation into the irregularities conducted by the TCP and prepare a report.
The investigation focused on three different allegations against officers of the TCP in the purchase and import of wheat during 2008-09. First, the TCP officers were accused of purchasing wheat at higher and exorbitant prices, inflicting a huge loss to the national exchequer.
They were also blamed for importing and accepting commodity of inferior quality while ignoring the specifications in order to provide benefits to the suppliers and themselves by abusing their official position. They also faced allegations of misappropriation and embezzlement in the import of wheat.
According to the probe conducted by the FIA, some TCP officials had abused their official position in collaboration with pre-shipment inspection companies, foreign suppliers and surveyors, causing a loss of Rs10.9 billion to the country.
A case was registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act-2 1947 against all the accused and was pending trial in the court of Special Judge Central-1 Karachi. However, the FIA concluded that all allegations of misappropriation regarding imported wheat could not be proved. The ECC took notice of the investigation report.
According to officials, the import of substandard quality wheat not only resulted in a multibillion-rupee loss to the national exchequer, but it also hurt the country’s farmers. They have always been in a vulnerable position and are at the mercy of middlemen, who do not give a fair price to them.
It has been a practice during the tenure of different governments that first wheat is imported and then powerful lobbies demand permission for exports with the help of lucrative subsidies.
This has also happened under the present government as wheat was imported despite the country had surplus produce. Later, provinces approached the federal government to seek a rebate on wheat export because of low prices in the international market.
However, they have fallen way short of the export target of 1.2 million tons as reports suggest the gap between prices in the domestic and international markets had widened to $100 per ton.
News source: The Express Tribune