LAHORE - Even after inquiry into substandard work worth to Rs 2.1 billion in Punjab Irrigation Department’s development circle Faisalabad, no action has been taken against the accused, The Nation has learnt.

Sources in Irrigation Department said that the corruption was one of the reasons Punjab government’s irrigation reforms programme could not succeed. Some officers’ corruption affected not only the development budget but gave losses to farming community of millions.

The act of embezzlement also reportedly led to the end of foreign funding. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was funding many projects including Burala Branch. As per official documents, the rehabilitation of Lower Chenab Canal System was initiated with the funding source of JICA under loan at an estimated cost of Rs 9142m for the period of 6th February 2006 to 5th February 2016. The loan agreement was signed after the approval of ECNEC. The project covers Lower Gogera, Burala, Mian Ali, Rakh Branch Canal system, Buchiyana district Hafizabad, Shaikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad and TT Singh.

The scheme was revised by the ECNEC on 28th August 2013 at a cost of Rs 12452m. Total numbers of channels for lining were 169 with the total length of 1318 km.

It came on record during investigations that breach at RD 54/L Burala Branch canal happened due to substandard work by the development circle Faisalabad which was worth Rs 2,121m. The chief engineer who made the payments against the works at that time was Khawar Nazir, who has now been posted as GM in Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority.

The Chief Ministers Inspection Team (CMIT), had also pointed out corruption in rehabilitation work (a copy of which is available with this paper). The CMIT had also recommended further probe into development work on all the 169 canals in the zone and punish the responsible but no action was taken while farmers continue to suffer. No body was punished for the mega scam except the one Ghulam Dastgir Maan who made a complaint with the department and pointed out corruption. However, the accused were given lavish slots. Maan was dismissed from Area Water Board on the CMIT recommendations.

Many efforts were made to contact Secretary Irrigation Saif Anjum but he was not available to comment.

As per the inquiry report, also available with this newspaper, the mega corruption of over two billion rupees (Rs 2121 m) surfaced due to occurrence of breach in Burala canal that was rehabilitated under the reform program. The amount was spent on the branch canal to bring its capacity to 2450 cusecs but interestingly it breached at a discharge of only 1800 cusecs on the 9th May, 2014.

“The proof of this corruption is present on records as per extra judicial confession statement of accused of the then Executive Engineer (XEN) Rashid Aziz of development division, currently suspended from service. XEN Aziz was one of the accused in the scam but interestingly he was posted on the same canal (Burala).

As per the statement of the XEN Burala before the inquiry officer, Superintendent Engr Drainage Circle Faisalabad Ch Muhammad Fazil, “Rs 2121m have been misappropriated and embezzled because the channel is not accepting its due discharge 2450 cusecs”.

Giving recommendations, the inquiry report wrote to the Secretary Irrigation department and requested to “Withdraw the suspension order of Ashraf Shahid, XEN Burala Division.

Ashraf Shahid was suspended by the Chief Engineer Khawar Nazir because the canal was breached when he ran the canal over 1800 cusecs. Instead of suspending the one who constructed the canal (XEN Rashid Aziz) and conducting inquiry into whether the canal capacity was increased or not and punishing the development engineers, the newly posted engineer was made scapegoat. The real culprit XEN Rashid Aziz was posted as XEN Burala.

The same canal Burala Branch was breached twice a couple days ago and the Secretary Irrigation suspended the real accused XEN Burala Rashid Aziz. The Secretary Irrigation earlier had given a deaf the ear to the official inquiry report recommendations that led to time and again breaching of the canal.

There was a breach at Burala Branch a couple of days ago. The Secretary this time suspended XEN Rashid Aziz.

A couple of days ago, the Burala canal was once again breached. The secretary Irrigation once again suspended XEN Rashid Aziz and very interestingly, Afzal Anjum Toor, Deputy General Manager (DGM) who is working under the GM PIDA Khawar Nazir, is posted as inquiry officer. Toor was demoted in service and removal from service was recommended for him by the high level probe committee because he was found involved in massive corruption of small dams.