Special assistant to the P.M. on accountability claims government has formulated strategy to reform sugar policy, rationalize prices of commodity
Around 149 flour mills, provided subsidy as part of the government’s 2018 Ramzan Package, embezzled Rs. 254 million of the funds, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Accountability Shahzad Akbar claimed on Friday, adding that Rs. 190 million of this had already been recovered while action was underway against 156 Food Department officials involved.
“The anti-corruption department has started criminal proceedings against 70 officials of the food department, who were directly involved in misappropriation of wheat subsidy,” he said, claiming that the current price hike could have been worse if the government had not cracked down on “mafias.”
Hailing the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate a Sindh High Court stay order against initiating an inquiry into sugar mill owners, Akbar said all high courts had been directed to decide pending petitions relating to the sugar commission within three weeks. He said sugar mills owners had more than 100 stay orders pending in various courts in the past 11 years and said this was only possible if the prosecutor was “collaborating” with the accused instead of pursuing the case.
Referring to the sugar inquiry report, Akbar said the federal cabinet had approved a strategy in its response, including a roadmap for punitive action, reforms, and rationalization of sugar prices. He said a committee headed by Industries Minister Hammad Azhar had been constituted to devise and implement all aspects of this strategy.
“Provincial governments, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan have been directed to investigate violations by sugar mills as per their rules, and report within 90 days,” he said, adding that a reference had also been sent to the National Accountability Bureau to investigate the misappropriation in subsidies given to sugar mills.
“The CCP will probe the last 10 years of cartelization in the sugar industry, while the central bank will investigate sugar mills’ willful loan defaults, and pledged sugar stocks, as per their rules,” said Akbar. He said the FIA would inquire about the fake export of sugar to Afghanistan and submit a report within 90 days, adding: “Provincial governments have been asked to probe violations by sugar mills, including paying lowers rates to sugarcane farmers and other violations.”
The accountability czar said a fine of Rs. 20 billion had been imposed by the CCP on sugar mills after the 2007-2009 sugar crisis and noted that this had still not been paid despite a passage of more than 10 years.