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Procurement of locomotives: expressing no-trust in NAB, minister approaches FIA

Expressing serious reservations on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Pakistan Railways has approached the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for probing the procurement of 58 locomotives from China, which developed major faults.

"Most of our cases are pending with the NAB for many years where no progress has been reported yet," said Khawaja Saad Rafique, the Minister for Railways, adding that for probing the issue of 58 locomotives FIA's intervention has been sought.

This the minister stated while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways, which met with Naveed Qamar in the chair on Friday. The Minister said that met the Chairman NAB and asked to actively pursue its cases; however it was of no use as the cases are still pending.

In a letter written to FIA, the Ministry has stated that the contract agreements amounting to $61.16 million and $55.69 million were signed with Chinese Company M/s CSR Ziyang Co Ltd, for 25 D.E Locomotives (3000-3500 HP) and 25 D.E Locomotives (2000-2500 HP) in Complete Built Unit (CBU) condition respectively on 07-12-2012 which was later enhanced for each type of four Locomotives owing to dire need of locomotives for operational purpose. These 38 D.E locomotives were received in the years 2013-14 & 2014-15.

Recently, during the inspection of D.E Locomotive No. 6429 ZCU-20 the PR experts found that under frame left side main beam was cracked at rear side of fuel tank just under the foundation of diesel engine. PR initiated the joint inspection of under frame of all ZCU-20 D.E locomotives with MIS. CSR Ziyang is a special drive. As a result of a joint survey, 16 ZCU-20 locomotives out of 29 locomotives have been found cracked under the foundation. The manufacturer, M/S CSR Ziyang, have been immediately called whose technical experts reached Lahore on 08-02-2016 for inspection and re-examination of design, which is in progress.

The Ministry is of view that the subject procurement be probed by FIA regarding any suspected negligence which is likely to cause a loss to public exchequer.

Briefing the committee members, the officials said till to-date, 29 locomotives of 2000 HP have earned 1.5 years of service and approximately 350,000 kms on average. The cracks were detected in 2000 hp, however no cracks were detected in 3000 hp.

The Chinese engineers have accepted that the cracks in the frames were due to a design defect and would be strengthened/ replaced at Pakistan Locomotives Factory Risalpur free of cost under their supervision. M/s CSR Ziyang allowed 11 out of 16 DE Locomotives for freight train operation, said the officials, adding that 5 DE Locomotives have been stabled to carry out strengthening/ replacement of under frames.

M/s CSR Ziyang have extended the warranty period of the under frame & now the warranty would start from the date of restoration of these Locomotives on replacement/ strengthening of under frames. The bank guarantee of manufacturer amounting to Rs 1188 million is available with the Pakistan Railways to cover the warranty, officials added.

The technical experts and engineers of M/s CSR Ziyang, China and M/s Caterpillar, the USA are supervising the maintenance of these Chinese Locomotives. However, the Minister admitted that there is no R&D department in Railways and there is of a lack mechanical engineering capacity to monitor or evaluate locomotives design.

The Committee inquired whether the Ministry has taken any action against those who were responsible for making the wrong design. It was replied that responsibility of designing lies with the manufacturer. However, the matter for investigation of suspected negligence in procurement of these Locomotives has been referred to the FIA on the directions of the Minister for Railways.

The committee also discussed the agenda items regarding status of Railway Ministry cases referred to NAB; however it expressed annoyance over the absence of high-ups of NAB from the meeting. The committee directed the DGs concerned to attend next meeting and give final report within seven days about the status of Railways cases.

The committee also decided to appoint a Sub-Committee under the convenership of Ramesh Lal, MNA to examine the encroachment of Railways' lands illegally across the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016