KARACHI: The Public Accounts Committee of the Sindh Assembly was informed on Wednesday that certain localities in the city had become ‘tribal areas’ from where the recovery of dues could not be made until encroachers were removed.
The encroached places included the auctioned government land situated at the site of the Orangi Town cottage industrial zone and a piece of land reserved for a park in Gulistan-i-Jauhar which the city authorities failed to reclaim from the land mafia, and the higher authorities concerned did not respond to requests for help.
The PAC, which met here in the Sindh Assembly building with Sardar Jam Tamachi Unnar in the chair, was further informed that Rs22 billion of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board was outstanding against the federal and Sindh governments, including Rs223m against the Rangers and Rs5m against Pakistan Steel, and any serious efforts to recover those dues could cost its initiator’s job.
The committee meeting, held to consider the draft paras of audited accounts for 2010-2011 of the district governments of Karachi and Kambar-Shahdadkot, took serious notice of the deputy commissioner of Kambar-Shahdadkot for his ‘contemptuous attitude’ towards the committee as he failed to turn up at the meeting and instead sent a junior officer to attend it without the relevant record.
The PAC asked the chief secretary to initiate disciplinary action against him.
After the meeting, local councils audit director Muhammad Ali Bokhari told the media that it was for the first time in the past 10 years that the KMC’s accounts were being considered in the PAC. He said of the total 38 paras, 18 were settled.
He said of the Rs76m recoverable, Rs34.9m had been recovered.
Mr Bokhari said the KMC budget was Rs38 billion while Rs28bn was spent, showing a saving of Rs9bn.
KMC administrator Muhammad Hussain Syed informed the meeting that the saving was Rs7bn as owing to the law and order situation the provincial releases had shrunk, and Pakistan Steel, Port Qasim and other institutions did not pay their property tax.
Mr Syed said the recovery of Rs40m, including Rs10.734m outstanding dues of Rs13.527m of the auctioned land in Orangi Town, was not possible.
He said it had become a ‘tribal area’ as despite best efforts, the KMC failed to get the required assistance to get the land vacated from the encroachers and when officials went to get the land vacated, they were fired upon. He said now a similar situation existed in Gulistan-i-Jauhar where a piece of park land was under encroachment and could not be reclaimed.
About the KWSB, the audit director said there were 16 paras but working papers were available for 14 paras which were considered and only two were settled and 12 deferred. He said the KWSB had not recovered any amount.
The KWSB chief said the board had recovered only Rs5 billion while its electricity and fuel bills were Rs7 billion as the federal and Sindh governments and other institutions had failed to pay water charges and were getting free tanker service.
During the consideration of the draft paras, the PAC said it was surprised to note that high officials of the utility service providers were not only enjoying government accommodation with house rents, but were also utilising water, power, gas and other services free.
Mr Unnar said that on the one hand the KWSB was facing severe financial constraints, on the other, its officials were enjoying undue benefits at the cost of the utility without any legal provision.
He said, if the statement of special secretary of the local government Muhammad Suleman Chandio was taken on the face of it about the facilities being enjoyed as per a provision, it could not be sanctioned without a legal cover. He asked the secretaries of the law and local government departments to look into the matter.
He said in the financial under review, of the Rs14.5bn budget only Rs8.4bn was spent, showing a saving of over Rs6bn.
KWSB chief Misbahuddin Farid told the PAC that there were billions of rupees outstanding against federal and Sindh government institutions while the recovery from other consumers was about Rs5bn which was utilised on salaries and carrying out small repair jobs that was why for the past over 60 years they had no money to replace the outdated pumps and other machinery.
He said Pakistan Steel was the biggest KWSB defaulter which had Rs4bn to Rs5bn dues followed by Port Qasim, the Karachi Port Trust and federal and provincial governments against whom Rs22bn was outstanding.
He also said that free waters tanker service was being provided to the governor, chief minister, Rangers, ministers and lawmakers.
Mr Unnar asked the KWSB to provide the PAC a list of the defaulters with outstanding amounts, particularly of the lawmakers and ministers.