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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Wednesday directed the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) to conduct an inspection by provincial food authorities regarding quality of perishable items procured for the utility stores.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the Secretary Industries to ensure oil, pulses, sugar, and other subsidised items put on sale for the poor must have good quality.

Syed Tanveer Hussain, while chairing the committee, remarked that the concept of USC was conceived in 1970 to provide quality items to poor on cheaper rates without taking into account the financial health of the corporation.

“If Utility Stores are not providing quality items on cheaper rates than they should be closed down,” he added.

The secretary industries said that the corporation, in coordination with the provincial authorities, was preparing lists of those suppliers who were black listed or involved in providing substandard food items at the stores.

They would be banned to participate in any bidding for procurement of food items, he added.

The committee will take up the special audit report highlighting Rs40 billion worth irregularities in Covid-19 package next week.

Responding to an audit para related to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), chairman said that Director General (DG) NAB HQ lied to the Parliament that the chairman NAB was busy in hearing the cases of missing persons when the committee directed him to appear and respond to the audit reports on the NAB accounts last week.

The committee examined five audit paras worth Rs951.277 million of the Ministry of Industries and Production for the year 2019-20.

Audit official informed the committee that the management of the USC did not make full recovery of Rs40.463 million, which was embezzled by the USC employees, Masood Alam Niazi senior GM (insurance) and Ziaullah Khan Warsi accounts officer, who were dismissed in October 2018 based on the judgement passed by the NAB Court, Karachi.

Both the accused misused their official authority and misappropriated an amount of Rs19.237 million by showing fake payment on account of labour charges.

It was also observed during the audit that embezzlement of stock valuing Rs21.2 million was also detected in different regions but no recovery of the cost of embezzlement was made from respective store incharge despite, lapse of considerable period.

The committee sought comprehensive briefing on the USC affairs and the auto sector next week.

While examining an audit para related to irregularities in procurement of land, machinery and human resource for Furniture Pakistan (Pvt) Limited, which was dissolved, the audit official was of the view that the board of directors and the Ministry of Industries and Production wilfully ignored the massive irregularities in Furniture Pakistan Company, which resulted in ruining of the large potential of the sector of furniture in Pakistan and chances of its revival were reduced.

During audit of the Furniture Pakistan for the years, 2014-15 to 2017-18, it was observed that the Ministry of Industries removed Faisal Shamim, former chief executive officer of the company from the office after inquiry into massive irregularities valuing Rs459.5 million committed by the officer regarding procurement of land, machinery, and HR resources for the CFTMCs located in Peshawar, Chiniot, Sargodha, Gujrat.

The case was registered with the FIA. Committee members asked the secretary to provide details of the staff of the Furniture Pakistan and salaries and other perks they are drawing within two weeks.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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