LAHORE - After several months of investigations and detention of government officials and Parliamentarians, the National Accountability Bureau on Monday filed a corruption reference against 20 persons in connection with Punjab Saaf Pani Company.

PML-N leader and former MPA Raja Qamar-ul-Islam is also among those accused of corruption. Raja was arrested by NAB one month before the July 25 elections. His teenage son led the political campaign but failed to win.

An official of the anti-graft authority said that the accused persons “caused a collective loss amounting to Rs 345.282 million to the national kitty” by illegally awarding the contract to a company for installation of 116 water filtration plants.

“The accused persons prepared engineering cost estimates at much higher rates in connivance with consultants and officers/officials of the PSPC (Punjab Saaf Pani Company). (Also), weather shield applications on these plants were also approved on exorbitant rates,” the official said. wThe interim reference was filed by NAB in the Accountability Court in Lahore on Monday.

According to officials, NAB had launched an inquiry against management of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (South and others) which was subsequently converted into investigation on August 20, 2018. During the course of investigations, it was revealed that with malafide intentions a contract was awarded to KSB Pumps for installation of 82 water filtration plants on exorbitant rates and without proper approval of the engineering estimates/technical sanction.

Meanwhile, at least 36 more water filtration plants were illegally added to the project, a government-run scheme to ensure provision clean water to the people of the Punjab province.

Former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had launched the initiative a few years ago. The former CM has also been arrested by NAB in connection with Ashiyana Housing Scheme, a housing project for low-income people. Interestingly, Shehbaz Sharif has not been named in the corruption reference with regard to Punjab SAAF Pani Company.

According to NAB, the findings revealed that civil, electrical, and solar works were also executed at exorbitant rates during installation of water filtration plants in Bahawalpur Region including the use of substandard material which was found below the required standard specifications.

“The investigations against the accused persons further disclosed that the weather shield applied on external walls of filtration plants in Bahawalpur was also found marked on exorbitant rates, whereas eight Solar and Grid based filtration plants installed in Tehsil Dunyapur were not included into the contract even in the list of four priority Tehsils etc.”

Lahore NAB had arrested four persons including Chief Technical Officer Dr Zaheer-ud-Din, Chief Procurement Officer Nasir Qadir Badhal, Consultant Engineer M Saleem Akhtar and Managing Director KSB Pumps Muhammad Masud Akhter on April 17, 2018.

Deputy Secretary Housing Khalid Nadeem Bukhari was arrested on May 2, 2018. Following the investigation, co-accused Raja Qamarul Islam and former CEO Wasim Ajmal were also arrested by Nab on June 25.

Later, NAB arrested five more accused persons during last week of November 2018.

The arrested persons include former Deputy Secretary Zahoor Ahmed Dogar, ex-Chief Resident Engineer Maj (Retd) Adnan Aftab Khan, Resident Engineer Syed Masoud-ul-Hassan Kazmi, Resident Engineer Muhammad Moeen-ud-Din, and Resident Engineer Muhammad Younas specifically following the allegations of illegal award of contract including excessive payments to contractor KSB Pumps.