CORRUPTION IN OUR SOCIETY
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The local government system was now in place where the people could keep a watch against misuse of public sector funds

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From Shamim Ahemd Rizvi,
 Islamabad

Aug  02 - 08, 2004
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The National Assembly Standing Committee on Local Bodies and Rural Development has taken serious notice of complaints of corruption in various development projects. The Committee in its meeting in Islamabad last week ordered probe on complaints of kickback and commission received by government officials responsible for supervision of such projects. Action has been ordered against those officers who ignored the use of sub-standard material and sub-standard quality of work by the contractors in return of kickback and commission.

During the meeting, a member of the committee lodged a complaint against some officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) for kickbacks and use of sub-standard material in development projects. Almost all other members endorsed his views and pointed out that the disease was widespread. The director General PWD who was present in the meeting had to face the music in a very embarrassing position as he had nothing to say in defense of his corrupt department.

Despite all claims and efforts the government has not been able to eradicate serious misappropriation in development schemes for various government departments. The fact is that the poison of corruption has sunk into the very vitals of society and corrupts have not been taken to task due to loopholes in our legal system. The government has not been able to tight its grip on the corrupt elements of bureaucracy. A major reason in the increase in hardships of the people, lack of privileges and facilities to common man. Certain people in the government are still behind these elements and are part of the ongoing loot and plunder at a wide scale. Until the entire network is busted it would not be possible to get rid of these corrupt elements and stop this huge wastage of national resources.

The National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS) approved by the federal cabinet and the president (who had in fact initiated the move) in Oct 2002 makes it mandatory for Ministers as well the heads of public sector development programme at the federal and the provincial and local levels to adopt the ethical practices and standards laid down while awarding contract for public sector project. It required appointment of professional consultants to scrutinize the bids and professional competence of the bidders before awarding contracts and a certificate for satisfactory quality and progress of the work done by the contractor before releasing periodical payments. As a part, NACS and Pakistan procurement of regulatory authority (PPRA) was also established to make the process of procurement transparent and mitigate the chances of Commission and kick backs on compromise of such standard supply of material.

 

 

PPRA was directed to adopt the World Bank recommendations given in country procurement assessment report on Pakistan for 2001-2002 which has expressed serious doubts and reservations on the prevailing procedure and prescribed some basic standard to be followed for improving the situation. As was feared, the vested interest have so far proved to be more powerful to thwart all such efforts and unfortunately the two regulatory authorities set up with tall claims have failed to make any mark and until now have proved to be the toothless bodies.

While addressing a one-day officially sponsored conference on combating corruption in public and private sector last year, President Pervez Musharraf enumerated various measures taken by his government during the past three years to eliminate corruption from Public Sector. He said his government introduced a merit-based system at selection and promotion level, autonomy to the State Bank and empowered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to enquire into cases of corruption. The local government system was now in place where the people could keep a watch against misuse of public sector funds, he said adding that the corruption at the highest level was unpardonable and the corrupt should be punished. At the government level it was mostly in the awards of contract, formulations of rules and regulations, collection of taxes and purchases for the organizations, he added.

He emphasized the need for encouragement of honest people at all the top levels so that they could give a lead to the majority of people in all the sections of the society, which would help in eradicating corruption. He also signed a document of pledge at the end of his address as a commitment to work for combating corruption.

Under the powers conferred under section 26 of PPRA Ordinance 2002 public procurement rules have come into force from June 1, 2004 under these rules conduct of government procurement involves a sequence of steps that provide levers at different levels for ensuring transparency and open decision making. These procedural dissemination of information about a tender, the dissemination of criteria for perspective bidders, the establishment of a timeframe and guidelines for preparation and submission of bids and criteria, procedure to evaluate the merit of the bids, by professionals hired as consultants, the availability of avenues for challenging the evaluation report and declaration of awarded contracts as public document. These procedures made mandatory by the government of Pakistan, are taken from the transport procurement procedure recommended by transparency international Pakistan in the light of requirements of national accountability strategy approved by the government in 2002. If these mandatory standards and procedures are strictly enforced, the complaints of commission and kickbacks would be minimized if not altogether eliminated.