Top auditor detects irregularities worth Rs97 billion in Railways

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top auditor has detected billions of rupees worth of irregularities in Pakistan Railways, exposing gross mismanagement within the state-run transport service that continues to incur losses upon losses.

The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) pointed out the irregularities, which amount to a shocking Rs97 billion, in his audit report for 2018-19. The AGP has subsequently directed Railways authorities to take action against those found responsible for the massive loss to the national exchequer.

According to the report, a copy of which is available with media, Pakistan Railways generated Rs49.6 billion in the last fiscal year against operational costs worth Rs85.5 billion. As a result, the state-run service had to bear a loss of Rs36.6 billion.

Of the audit objections noted in the report, 56 per cent pertain to Railways lands, 20 per cent pertain to recoveries and 12 per cent pertain to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). The remainder concern losses from theft, fiscal irregularities, and embezzlement.

The report pointed out that a staggering Rs51 billion worth of Railways land was lost to land-grabbers. It highlighted that a ‘private mafia’ has been occupying 18 prime Railways sites in Karachi for several years. It also revealed that the Sindh government has been illegally leasing Railways lands to private partners who have erected multi-story buildings on the properties. The AGP, however, pinned the blame for the lost land squarely on the ‘incompetence’ of the Pakistan Railways management.

The report also revealed that Pakistan Railways suffered a loss of nearly Rs15 billion due to the failure of its management to recover dues from other federal government wings, like the Port Qasim Authority, Pakistan Post, Water, and Power Development Authority and the departments of irrigation, food and education, and provincial and district authorities.

It pointed out that maladministration in the railways ministry cost a PSDP project Rs10.5 billion. It also noted that the Railways administration had granted a contract worth Rs3.2 billion in violation of PPRA rules. Railways authorities also unable to recover Rs2.6 billion from provincial governments to repair level crossings and wasted Rs2 billion worth of scrap as well, the report added.

Delays in the repair of damaged railway coaches also cost the state-run service nearly Rs2 billion, the report pointed out. It also made note of Rs380 million worth of ‘fake expenditure’ in the repair process. The AGP also criticised Railways authorities for losing Rs3.8 billion due to inaction while auctioning off Railways roads and steel. Railways authorities were also unable to furnish the record of five cases to the AGP.

A staggering Rs52 billion worth of irregularities in the state-run transport service occurred at the administrative level, the AGP’s report mentioned. Another Rs50 billion in losses were a result of embezzlement, fraud, and theft. Around Rs6.5 billion were lost due to PPRA rule violations.