The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned district government officials following reports that more than 400 billboards were installed in Faisalabad without any no objection certificate (NOC) that caused more than Rs659m loss to the national exchequer from 2006 to 2012. The officials will appear before NAB on Thursday (tomorrow) with relevant record.
Sources said NAB had initiated the probe into the issue following an inquiry committee report which substantiated that no NOC fee had been deposited with the exchequer from 2006 to 2012. However, they said office of the EDO Municipal Services (MS) had no record of such boards at the EDO office and the incumbent EDO had started summoning the advertisers to produce record in his office that how many boards had been installed by obtaining the NOCs. A loss of Rs659.9m to the exchequer was detected when former Faisalabad Commissioner Tahir Hussain Shah constituted a two-member committee, comprising EDO (F&P) and AC (Sadar), to probe into the allegations leveled by Muhammad Rafi, an advertiser.
The billboards were installed on many roads, including the Jail Road, Allied Morr, Sargodha Road, Sheikhupura Road, D Ground Peoples Colony, Canal Road, Nishatabad, Gatwala, Khurrianwala Chowk, Bus Stand, Chenab Club Chowk, Railway Workshop Chowk, Tariq Abad, Abdullahpur Chowk, Mansoorabad, Ghumti Chowk, Railway Road, GTS Chowk, Circular Road, Kutchery Bazaar Chowk, Kotwali Road, City Terminal 1122, Jhal Bridge, Sattiana Road, Jaranwala Road, Chen One Road, Susan Road, Narawala Road, Jhang Road and Samundri Road. Probing the matter, the committee visited the spots and observed that various billboards had been installed by the advertiser but prima facie, the department had not issued NOCs in their favour.
Violations of outdoor advertisement rules regarding installation of boards, non-recovery of NOC fee from advertisers, doing business of advertisement billboards without the annual renewal of registration and the installation of huge billboards than the prescribed size have been proved. “It is, therefore, proposed the financial loss caused to the city district government as a consequence of non-recovery of NOC fee from the advertisers for periods 2006-12 may be assessed and recovered forthwith,” the committee said. A special audit regarding the issue had been conducted by the audit team, constituted on the direction of special judge of Anti-Corruption Court. The audit team pointed out loss of Rs659.9m.
On Jan 20, the then AC Sadar, now serving as district officer coordination (DOC), following the audit report had sent a letter (Admn/488/LT), titled, “Recovery of embezzled advertisement fee” to the DCO Faisalabad. He mentioned that allegations of embezzlement as well as pilferage of advertisement fee had been proved and the action was proposed against the EDO (MS) and DO (spatial planning) vide inquiry reports, titled “Inquiry against illegal installation of advertisement boards” and inquiry report titled “Non-recovery of advertisement, registration and NOC fees.” The inquiry committee proposed stringent action against the corrupt officers as well as drastic measures to recover the embezzled advertisement fee from the advertisers.
The findings of the committee were substantiated by the observation of audit team, constituted on the direction of special judge anti-corruption court. The loss pointed out by the special audit team was Rs659.934m, the then AC Sadar added. Following recommendations of the committee, the Anti-Corruption Establishment had registered a case against the then DO (spatial planning) and others on charges of embezzlement of NOC fee.
EDO (MS) Khalid Hussaini told Dawn he had assumed the charge of his office about a month ago and was trying to collect the record that how many NOCs had been issued and what amount had been deposited with the national kitty. He said the advertisers were being called to come up with the NOCs issued to them as the record was not available with the EDO office. To a query, he said NAB had been probing the issue and the district government officers would appear before the inquiry officer on coming Thursday. -dawn