NAB ends enquiry against Shehbaz Sharif

LAHORE: NAB Lahore has decided not to further investigate the clean water corruption inquiry against former CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and has forwarded the developments to the concerned departments.

According to sources, NAB Lahore sought approval from the NAB chairman to close the Saaf Pani South Company inquiry against opposition leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif in the National Assembly.

The recommendations submitted to the Chairman NAB said that the clean water project violated sub-section 5 of section 45 of the Punjab Procurement Rules 2014 while ECSP and Urban Unit were awarded contracts in collaboration with foreign firms However, Para Rules 2014 is silent on agreements with foreign or private firms and government companies.

The NAB inquiry said that Rs. 195.97 million was paid to foreign companies while Rs. 648.29 million was paid to Saaf Pani South Punjab Office for two years rent.

According to sources, NAB will not further investigate the Saaf Pani Company case and recommendations have been made to send the case to the concerned agencies Housing and Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Development Department.

Lahore High Court has ruled that prima facie has been established in regards to the NAB “mala-fidely” proceeded against two directors of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), Eng. Raja Qamar ul Islam and Waseem Ajmal.

The LHC held that there was no violation of rules or allegation of corruption, commission or kickback against seven officials of the PSPC including PML-N leader Qamarul Islam in awarding the contract for the installation of filtration plants in Bahawalpur region.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf, on January 30 granted bail to all these accused arrested by the NAB eight months back.

Qamarul Islam, who was the PML-N candidate in two national and provincial constituencies of Rawalpindi in July 25 general elections, was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog just a month before the polling.

“We have noted that there is absolutely no allegation against the petitioners that they received any commission, kickbacks, illegal gratification while awarding the contract. There is nothing on record that a single penny was paid to them or transferred in their accounts or in the accounts of their relatives or friends. Similarly, there is no allegation that any movable or immovable property was transferred in their names or the names of their relatives or friends,” the judgment said.

It said the accused did not commit any illegality in negotiating the price of bid with KSB Pumps and its reduction immediately after the opening of the bids.

The main allegation against the accused was that they reduced the bid price of the contract from Rs1.14 billion to Rs989 million through post-bid negotiations with the KSB Pumps in order to adjust the bid price with engineering cost estimates of Rs995 million, the judgment noted.

The KSB Pumps offered that if the number of plants is increased from 84 to 102, it will charge 20% less price of all the plants. This offer was placed before the BoDs and all the directors unanimously accepted this offer and consequently the price of the plants was reduced.

The verdict said there is no dispute that KSB Pumps was the lowest bidder and its financial bid of Rs1.14 billion immediately after the opening of the bid through post-bid negotiations got reduced to Rs989 million.

The engineering cost estimate of the project was admittedly Rs995 million. It is also an admitted fact that under the relevant rules, the accused/Board of Directors (BoDs) of the PSPC were authorized to award the contract at 4.5% higher amount than that cited in engineering cost estimate.

According to the minutes of an official meeting on Punjab Saaf Pani project on 2nd July, 2015 chaired by the then CM Shahbaz Sharif, “Ex-CEO Punjab Company gave a presentation on the updated status of Saaf Pani Program.

He apprised the Chair of award of contract @ 20% lowest than the original bid offer in the light of directions of the Chief Minister.” The minutes also reveal, “The Chair desired that high quality third party international consultancy should be hired to validate all the payments and scope of work completed by the contractors…..”

It should be noted that Shahbaz Sharif has appeared in NAB and accountability court several times in this case.

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