LAHORE - The Chief Minister’s Inspection Team has detected registration of more than 4,000 vehicles on bogus documents by the excise and taxation department.

All these vehicles were auctioned by the security institution on various occasions. It also found registration of 701 trucks on motorcycle papers.

“The whole system of registration of army-auctioned vehicles seems to be favouring corruption and registration of unauthentic vehicles in the department,” says an official report a copy of which is available with The Nation.

This is probably the biggest-ever scandal of bogus registration of vehicles in the E&T department.

The CMIT report pointed out many flaws in the registration system and called upon the relevant authorities to take effective measures to stop such malpractices.

It was also found that the vehicles being registered in Lahore like to get fitness certificates from outside Lahore and no E&T officer ever carries out countercheck. “There is absolutely no way to ascertain whether the vehicle being registered is actually the vehicle that was originally auctioned,” the report states.

The report further says that about 44 percent of the probed cases were found bogus with various flaws like fake CNICs, inapplicability of the latest rules set for such registrations in 2015 by the Punjab government. In some cases, date of registration was not available in the scanned data registration was made much late. While examining the online verification of vehicles, the probe body found fictitious dates of registrations as well. A very disturbing fact is the department declared unfit vehicles fit without physically examining them.

When the irregularities were brought to the notice of the E&T department secretary, he simply ignored the big issue.

Sources in the CM Office further disclosed that former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif had directed the CMIT chairman to probe the grave irregularities of bogus registration of used vehicles auctioned by the defence authorities.

The CMIT noted that the IT equipment and software meant for computerisation of the data were found out of order or missing in the E&T department which gave way to embezzlement.

The report further found that during 2014 the Motor Registration Authority (MRA), Sahiwal, canceled the registration of 30 army-auctioned vehicles after conducting an inquiry. The inquiry report also pointed out that 30 vehicles registered in Sahiwal on September 10, 2014, were actually registered in the name of the same owner in Lahore on June 22, 2006.

The CNIC of the owner (Usman s/o Maqsood) was found fake by Nadra after verification. The report expressed its surprise that the then director excise, Sahiwal, Muhammad Asif, set aside the MRA’s orders and upheld the fake registrations.

The CMIT further observed that as the year of manufacture of army-auctioned vehicles ranges from 1951 to 1998, but all the vehicles were declared fit by the motor vehicle examiners and the same has been accepted without any diligence by the E&T department. The vehicles had been used for heavy duty and on rough terrains.

It was also pointed out that there are vehicles that were auctioned and verified in 2011, but registered in 2016-2017. “We also see that most of the fitness certificates are only taken after the verification by the defence authorities and no fitness has been taken from the VICS system,” says the CMIT report.

The CMIT investigation further explores that the SOPs actually ignore the fact that any vehicle, be it stolen or smuggled, can be registered despite verification of the voucher. Verifications done in 2011 are being honoured in 2016 and fitness certificates obtained even later. This intervening period tells us the real story, the report uncovers.

The Sahiwal case is a clear indication of the inbuilt flaws of the system. Actually, the same vouchers which had been verified in 2006 and against which 30 vehicles were then registered in Lahore were reused for registration of new vehicles in Sahiwal in 2014.

The CMIT further hints that the data that was checked in Lahore, if it had truly been rechecked at VICS, it would have been found that most of them do not answer the particulars of the original vehicles. Both the MVEs and the MRAs are responsible for this because MVEs issue a fitness certificate without real checks and MRAs never exercise their power to countercheck the documents or vehicles. For running an inefficient and unsafe IT system, the E&T department is equally responsible, the report appends.

It was further found that these suspected vehicles had been registered under LES-16 and LES-17 series. Fake or genuine vouchers are sold by agents mostly working in front of MRA, Lahore office, and most vehicles are registered as commercial buses and trucks.

Although the fitness certificate function has been outsourced to VICS, certificates are either being issued by the MVEs or totally fake certificates are prepared by the agents, the report presented to the CM reveals.

The CMIT also dug out gratification. A file ready for registration is submitted to MRA for the purpose of registration with an illegal gratification of Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000. The registration documents of auctioned vehicles are sent to the defence authorities concerned for verification. These documents are generally verified by the lower staff there. The documents so prepared are then returned to the agent concerned who sells each file for Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000. Thus total corruption of 50pc of the total 4,000 vehicles registered on fake documents exceeds Rs 5 billion.

The purchaser of each registration file approaches one of the many motor vehicle bodybuilders for the purpose of a commercial vehicle which did not exist before preparation of documents. After the preparation of documents and construction of a minibus or truck, the actual price of that commercial vehicle reaches Rs 2.2 million to 2.5 million.

An officer disclosed to the CMIT that a total of 15 officers involved in Multan motorcycles, trucks registration scam were not only suspended but also are facing FIR dated 24.3.2016 in anti-corruption police station. Moreover, all 24 officers of E&T Multan were charge-sheeted on March 7, 2016.

The CMIT recommends that all vehicles that have been registered anywhere in Punjab as army-auctioned vehicles in the last 10 years may be re-verified for fitness and authenticity of credentials at the VICS workshop within not more than six months. This may be ensured by the E&T department that all registrations of vehicles which do not go through this process and get fresh and properly designed certificates from VICS are cancelled. All MVEs found responsible for issuing wrong fitness certificate as a result of the above exercise may be proceeded against under the anti-corruption laws by the department.

All officers/officials from data entry operator to MRA, dealing with registration of defence-auctioned vehicles may be proceeded against departmentally. The Anti-Corruption Establishment may conduct an immediate investigation into the issue. A third-party audit of the data of registration of army-auctioned vehicles may be conducted through independent government audit teams for Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan. A high-powered committee to oversee the above process of verification by VICS and audit by audit parties may be constituted with the additional chief secretary (ACS) as its convener and finance, transport, E&T and prosecution secretaries as its members, the CMIT report recommends.