By M. Bilal –
A recent report of the Auditor General of Pakistan exposes callous attitude of national disaster managers
Floods play havoc in Pakistan every year, precious lives are lost and properties are simply washed away. But the most disturbing factor is the callous attitude of our disaster management authorities to deal with such calamities.
A report of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) placed before the National Assembly recently makes shocking revelations as how stuff required on emergent basis to help flood affectees in 2012 was procured late and those vendors responsible for delays in deliveries were left unpunished.
The Auditor General of Pakistan has pointed out that serious irregularities were committed while procuring tents without open bidding, non-imposition of penalties worth millions of rupees over late delivery of ration packs when calamity-hit people were in dire need of food.
The audit report for year 2013-14 says Prime Minister during his visit to Karachi on September 15-16, 2012 directed National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to provide 25,000 tents for flood affectees.
So, the NDMA purchased 48,500 tents for Rs 499.550 million against immediate requirement of 16,000 tents (11,000 for Sindh and 5,000 for Baluchistan). Out of the total purchase, 29,010 tents were issued to different places while remaining 19,499 were stored in stock along with previous available stock of 9,499 tents.
Furthermore, the audit authorities observed that procurement of tents was made without open competitions, depriving the government benefits of competitive rates and “undue favour was extended to suppliers”. The Auditor General of Pakistan has concluded that this whole episode of procurement of tents without open competition was an irregularity of Rs 499.550 million so responsibility must be fixed for it.
The report further reveals that the national kitty suffered a loss of Rs 11.815 million due to non-imposition of penalty for late delivery of ration packs and tents. NDMA signed an agreement with a private supplier on December 13, 2012 for supply of 20,000 tents. As per the agreement, the vendor had to deliver 100 percent supply by December 23 without any failure. In case of any delay, the penalty to the tune of 1 percent of the cost of items delivered after the deadline for each day of delay had to be imposed on the supplier.
Similarly, another agreement was signed with a different vendor on September 5, 2011 for supply of ration packs and the first delivery had to be supplied at the destination by September 10, 2011. These tents and ration packs amounting to Rs346.000 million were procured from National Disaster Management Fund during 2011-13.
The Audit observed that first company delayed the supply of tents at three destinations but the NDMA management did not impose penalty amounting to Rs 4.095 million. The other firm also delayed the supply of ration packs in three districts but penalty amounting to Rs7.720 was not imposed.
The report says an undue favour was extended to the suppliers by not imposing penalty, which resulted in loss of Rs 11.815 million to the public exchequer. The AGP has recommended that responsibility be fixed for the loss and amount of penalty be recovered from the suppliers.
The audit report carries more shocking statistics, as how the National Disaster Management Authority committed serious irregularities. In 2011, the NDMA management purchased emergency relief items like tents, food and non-food items amounting to Rs 1.508 billion from 12 different suppliers for disaster affected persons in Sindh.
The audit has observed that NDMA’s management imposed penalties amounting to Rs 63.504 million for delayed supplies. Later, the penalties were waived and the withheld amount was released to suppliers without any provision in the agreements. The AGP is of the view that undue favour was extended to the suppliers for waiver of penalties which resulted in loss to the government.
During the audit, the NDMA management took a position that vendors failed to deliver within stipulated time due to reasons beyond their control. The vendors resorted to protest when their funds were delayed by the government so NDMA chairman exercised his discretion to waive the penalties across the board keeping in view the situation and late payments which had caused huge financial loss to the vendors.
But the audit maintained that NDMA boss had no powers to waive penalties as per agreements. During the verification process, NDMA management claimed that the penalty was waived by the National Authority. However, the management could not provide any notification of the composition of any such ‘National Authority’.
“The fact remains that it was the Chairman NDMA who waived penalties without lawful authority causing loss of Rs 63.504 million to the government. Audit recommends that responsibility should be fixed and the amount of penalties waived should be recovered from suppliers,” concludes the audit report.
Floods began in early September 2012, resulting from heavy monsoon rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Upper Sindh, Southern Punjab and Baluchistan regions of Pakistan wherein nearly 5 million people were affected.
The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist