Brewing political crisis- three IRSA members likely to be removed

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing tug of war between Ministry of Water Resources and Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has entered into decisive stage, where overlooking concerns over the findings of inquiry report on mega scam of Telemetry System’s installation, ministry of water resources is mulling to remove three key officials (members) of authority the representing Federation, Punjab and Sindh provinces.

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered a probe which has also been completed, but the institutions involved are still blaming each other for the state’s collective failure and none is ready to take responsibility.

The recent by ministry of water resources, allegedly to save the skin of its officials directly involved in mega scam of telemetry system installation is likely to engender may another political crisis for Prime Minister Khan as Sindh and Punjab opposed performance of inquiry committee formed with the mutual consent of federal secretary of water resources Muhammad Ashraf and Joint Secretary (water) Syed Mehar Ali Shah.

The World Bank trashed a US$ 18.5 million project to install Telemetry System, which needed liaison between different departments, ministries, provinces and the federation.

Read: Blame game among top officials continues after scrapping of US $ 18.5 m Telemetry…

The inordinate delay and reports of alleged anomalies forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and constitute a four members high-level inquiry committee to probe into the matter, the inquiry committee completed its job and submitted the report to Prime Minister secretariat, however IRSA authority declared the inquiry report biased and straight away rejected the findings of the report.

summary moved to remove three key officials of IRSA including member Punjab, representatives of Sindh province and federation

A senior official of ministry of water resources requesting not to be name informed The News Today that the summary of removal of three key officials of authority including Rao Irshad the member Punjab, Syed Mazhar Ali Shah representing Sindh province and Asjad Imtiaz Ali a representative of federation has been moved.

The IRSA claims that inquiry committee did not cover the all aspects and overlooked the mega scam of selection of company MM Pakistan (Pvt) Limited to save the skin of a senior official serving as Joint Secretary (JS) in ministry of water resources.

After submitting the inquiry report to Prime Minister Secretariat, ministry of water resources initially was reluctant to share the complete report with IRSA authority, however after intervention by Prime Minister Office, it received the document. IRSA authority then submitted its reply and comments about the content of inquiry report.

According to the document available with The News Today, the member Punjab, Rao Irshad in his comments on inquiry report stated that Joint Secretary (JS) ministry of water resources Syed Mehar Ali Shah was keen to allot consultancy part of the contract of telemetry system to semi-government company National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK).

The JS water, whose role is stated as controversial in the matter, was an employee of NESPAK and is serving on deputation in ministry as JS (water) BPS-20 since February 2015.

Interestingly, the notification of his placement in the ministry was issued on April 2016, apparently to linger on his deputation period.

Mr. Shah is also holding an additional responsibility of commissioner of Indus Water Commission Pakistan on adhoc basis.

In addition, he is also serving as project Director in World Bank (WB) funded water sector capacity building project (W-CAP) and caring for financial matters of special committee on Diamer Basha and Mohmand Dam projects.

The member Punjab IRSA, Rao Irshad in his reply to Prime Minister of Pakistan revealed that an email dated June 19, 2019 signed by team leader Naeem Khan was actually drafted and handed over to project (W-CAP) team leader by JS (water) Syed Mehar Ali Shah clearly showing the conflict of interest in this case.

IRSA the executing body for telemetry system’s installation was not the part of meeting with Prime Minister

“A meeting was held with the Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 2019.  It was attended by federal secretary water Muhammad Ashraf, JS (water) Syed Mehar Ali Shah, however the custodian and executing authority (IRSA) for telemetry system’s installation project was not the part of this meeting”, member Punjab maintained in his reply.

During the proceedings of IRSA meeting held on 30th August 2019, which was attended by team leader W-CAP project Naeem Khan and other officials of ministry of water resources, the Director (technical) W-CAP project Akhtar Bhatti left the meeting after receiving a phone call on his mobile by JS (water), stating that he has no objection to award the contract to M/S MM Pakistan (pvt) Ltd.

A representative of M/S MM Pakistan on condition of anonymity informed The News Today that the JS (water) allegedly demanded from MD Wasim Nazir kickbacks to settle the issue, when a meeting of IRSA on August 2019 was going on…… during the entire episode, Wasim Nazir also met personally with secretary water resources Muhammad Ashraf and JS (water) Syed Mehar Ali Shah into their offices to settle the issue.

The representative of Punjab province for IRSA authority Mr. Irshad in disclosures further stated that JS (water) exerted undue pressure on IRSA through 19th June 2019 email to ensure that the contract did not get allotted to M/S MM Pakistan (pvt) Ltd to that it could be awarded to second highest bidder blue eyed M/S NESPAK (pvt) Ltd.

Member IRSA Sindh, Syed Mazhar Ali Shah in his official comments through communiqué IRSA/M(S)/ 2684-85 on inquiry report, termed it dishonesty of inquiry committee members and alleged that probe body formed by federal secretary of water resources has not mentioned full facts in the finding of report.

“I have requested authority vide letter No. IRSA/A/M (S)/5158-60 on 28 September 2018 to get all provinces fully involved so that they should own the telemetry system, otherwise there will be repetition of the same mistake. The difference with the authority was on execution procedure of the project but there was consensus among members of the authority on the selection of the consultants”, member Sindh maintained.

strong lobby of NESPAK to grab consultancy contracts worth billions of rupees.

A senior official of ministry of water resources claimed that in the federal ministries that are directly involved in awarding such contracts like ministry of energy, ministry of communication and ministry of water resources there is a strong lobby of a semi-government consultancy company National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) to grab the consultancy contracts worth billions of rupees.

Now the tug of war between IRSA authority and ministry of water resources has become more crucial as the ministry has prepared the summary of removal of three key members of authority representing federation, Punjab and Sindh provinces has been forwarded to cabinet division on Monday.

Moreover, brushing aside autonomy of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), federal ministry of water resources also silently awarded the project; ‘Automation of Water Discharge Monitoring’ to Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), which had failed to complete the same project in 2003 causing loss of Rs 345 million to the national exchequer.

Read: Rivers’ water discharge monitoring project handed over to WAPDA once again

Installation of Telemetry System, which needed working cooperation of multiple authorities and ministries, including provinces and the federation has been shelved. All of these people are blaming each other for the state’s collective failure and none is ready to take responsibility.


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