Punjab CM’s, officials’ visits to China: expenditures declared illegal

By: Safdar Rasheed

The Special Departmental Accounts Committee (SDAC) of the Industries, Commerce and Investment Department has declared the expenditures amounting to Rs 12.37 million incurred on foreign tours of the Punjab Chief Minster and officials of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, as illegal and asked the PBIT to deposit the amount in the exchequer to settle the audit observations.

The SDAC had sought details of foreign tours of the Punjab chief minister and officers of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) during the year 2013-14 as well as expenditures incurred over it, Business Recorder has learnt.

As per documents made available to Business Recorder, the Special Departmental Accounts Committee (SDAC), after examining the record pertaining to expenditures on foreign tours of Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and PBIT members, during 2013-14 declared an amount of Rs 12.37 million as unjustified. According to documents,

“The SDAC observed the PBIT’s version about the grant-in-aid provided by the government that is just normal facilitation amount for any unforeseen expenses as contingency fund during CM and delegates visits abroad and CM office has no its own budget for this purpose”. Moreover, PBIT claim that quantifiable objectives vis-à-vis achievements of these visits do not fall in PBIT’s domain.

The audit objections were not settled in departmental committee as committee recommended depositing of Rs 12.37 million in public kitty. Now an audit para is being sent to Public Account Committee of Punjab Assembly and PIBT was trying its level best to hush up the issue while seeking consent of CM for provision of supplementary grant for the same damage, sources said.

Punjab Board of Investment is allegedly diverting from its mandate to extend cash facilities to important politicians and bureaucrats who accompanied Chief Minster Punjab during various visit of China to enjoy life during foreign tours, an official said.

According to a document, Punjab Board of Investment and Trade provided Rs 13 million hard cash during 2009 to 2014 to various mighty bureaucrats including Secretary to chief minister Amdad Ullah Bosal, Commissioner Lahore Abdullah Sumbol ,Chief Executive Officer Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) Amnana Cheema and politicians including Federal minister for commerce Khurim Dastgeer for private use who visited China as state guest revealed in a audit report compiled by Director General Commercial audit.

The Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) is the trade and investment promotion agency of the province of Punjab established in 2009 as independent entity under the companies act.

PBIT was given three key objectives: facilitating new and existing businesses; creating a mutually beneficial business environment through proactive policy advocacy both at the provincial and federal level and, promoting Punjab as the ultimate investment destination.

The Punjab government appointed Amena Cheema, the spouse of a senior bureaucrat, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on a lucrative package to guide the team. The chief minister paid several officials visits to China to seek investment in different fields including energy, housing and transport.

He went to China with some senior officials and politicians and they were treated as state guests during their stay in China, an official said. Ironically, PIBT illegally gifted Rs 13 million as hard cash to accompanied officials for their personal use during their visit to China. During audit of organisation, it was revealed that money in dollars was given to officials in cash for personal use and they enjoyed shopping, ride and fine dining in China without any legal authority.

SDAC raised objections regarding recruitment in the PBIT. Documents reveal that The Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) is also allegedly involved in illegal recruitment in the department without any advertisement which is a severe violation of Punjab Procurement regulatory Authority (PPRA) A retired grade 18 official has been re-employed as Director HR and admin without following any recruitment rules and regulation.

Source: Business Recorder