NAB Probes $130 Million ‘Corruption’ in Karachi-Lahore Motorway Project

Pakistan’s top corruption watchdog the National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) has decided to probe into US$130 million (Rs14 billion) losses caused to the national exchequer for allegedly illegally awarding contract for Karachi-Lahore Motorway Section-111-Abdul Hakeem (230 Km) to state-owned China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation for US$1.345 billion (PKR148 billion).

The board approved the inquiry against National Highway Authority (NHA) management and others for their alleged role in facilitating the illegal award of the contract at a higher project value than the originally lowest bid price.

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Tuesday.

The decision negated a claim of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif that not a single corruption case had surfaced during the tenure of his government.

When the NAB chairman took up the case last month, the bureau had decided to summon former chairman of the National High Authority (NHA) Shahid Ashraf Tarar and contractors of the project.

According to NAB, the inquiry against NHA officers and the contractors has been started on the basis of a complaint of the Transparency International (TI) and some evidence collected by the bureau during its complaint verification process.

“We have started the inquiry into Karachi-Lahore Motorway project after we found some evidences during the complaint verification process,” a NAB official said, adding that the inquiry was ordered into alleged corruption in awarding the contract in violation of laws / rules at exorbitant rates.

Interestingly, Transparency Interna­tional had lodged the complaint two years ago, but former NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry did not take any action.

The NHA had awarded the US$1.345 billion (Rs148bn contract) in August 2015, ignoring serious shortcomings in the successful bid.

Addressing the meeting, Justice (R) Javed Iqbal said corruption was the mother of all ills, which must be exterminated root and branch.

He asked the NAB officers to consider elimination of corruption as their national responsibility and utilize all their energies for ensuring a corruption-free Pakistan. He directed the NAB officers to conclude verifications, inquiries and investigations within the prescribed time frame. Justice Javed said the NAB strictly adhered to the policy of ‘Accountability for All’. “The affiliation of NAB is with the country and its people,” he said.

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