ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties in the Senate yesterday rejected the government’s decision to hold audit of alleged scam of Nandipur Power Project through a private firm and demanded that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should investigate the matter. At least two opposition parties in the Upper House, PPP and PTI, viewed that the Nandipur Power Project scam was not only a technical issue but there was embezzlement in it and needed to be probed under relevant laws of Pakistan Penal Code (PPP). They rejected the government’s decision to hold audit through a private firm saying that an audit firm could not hold investigation into the alleged rip-off and it would only look into the account books of the project.

“We don’t accept the audit being conducted by Ferguson (audit firm) and I warn the firm not to whitewash the misappropriated money,” Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said while taking part in the discussion on the alleged bad governance in the Nandipur Power Project. Aitzaz Ahsan alleged that Sharif family was in the habit of what he said whitewashing of their wrongdoings, it might be cooperative banks scandal or Supreme Court attack case. He demanded an investigation into the case keeping in view the laws of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) instead of holding an audit from a private firm. The firm would only check account books and that might have been managed.

Retreating his other day’s rhetoric, the Leader of the Opposition said that questions will continue to raise on Nandipur Power Project, LNG import, solar power project and Metro Bus Power Project as these were colossal scams. He said that the government had now started shifting responsibility on one another. He pointed out that project director (PD) of the project had no experience of power sector as he was a horticulturist. “Nandipur Power Project is a complete failure and incompetence of the government,” argued Senator Mohsin Aziz of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He criticism and said that first the plant was on dual fuel, furnace and diesel, and now the government wanted to run it through gas. This would be another grave mistake. He said that the cost of per unit price generated through this project was as high as Rs 60 per unit. He said that original cost of the project should be Rs 28 billion that had now escalated to Rs 86 billion.

Sussi Palejo and Mukhtiar Ahmed Damrah of PPP demanded that the matter should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power for thorough probe. In his counter arguments, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif criticised the Leader of Opposition and said that his wife got quota of LPG from the same source that gave quota to two former chairpersons of NAB. Both were lieutenant generals. “He has very old love affair with NAB,” he jeered at Ahsan. “What his party leadership opines about him, if I disclose, he will get embarrassed,” he said.

The minister brushed aside all the accusations from the opposition benches and reiterated his other day’s stance that any committee or agency could probe the matter as the government had no objection to it. He said that NAB was already probing one aspect of the matter on the recommendations of the Supreme Court commission. “If NAB wants to expand the scope of the investigations, I have no objection,” he said. He while quoting previous audit report said that the previous PPP regime did major misappropriations in the project including no formation of detailed feasibility report. He admitted that the contractor established under-sized fuel oil treatment plant that was the major issue in the efficiency of the plant. “But we have not taken over and the contractor had been asked to establish the full size furnace oil treatment plant,” he said. “We are trying to give contract of operation and management of the project o international firm to run the plant,” he said adding that Nepra had determined Rs 11.3 per unit rate for the plant against demand of Rs18 per unit.

Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, while responding a call attention notice about the establishment of a special cell in Pentagon for defence ties with India, said that the cell had been established for deference and trade purposes under an agreement. “Pakistan has also different agreements with US for the last 60 years,” he gave the logic. He said that he had informed Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Pakistan about Pakistan’s concerns towards India ahead of US President Obama’s visit to India. “The PM’s speech in UNGA is also reflective of Pakistan’s concerns towards India,” he said.

Chairman Senate on a motion of Senator Farhatullah Babar remarked that the government should bring a draft bill in consultation with the religious affairs ministry in the next session to give legal cover to the Royat-e-Hilal Committee. “If the government will not do so, the standing committee concerned should prepare the draft bill in consolation with the ministry,” he said.