Loopholes in procedure for animal procurement
KARACHI, July 8: A procedure followed by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to procure animals for Safari Park contains some serious flaws, including lack of a mechanism to verify the credentials of a company before awarding a contract for import of animals, it emerged on Sunday.
Also, a prolonged procedure adopted by certain other departments for the verification of documents on the arrival of ‘imported’ animals leaves loopholes open for financial irregularities and wildlife trafficking, the information collected from relevant officials shows.
Sources said the KMC had awarded a contract of Rs27 million to Three B Enterprise for the import of a pair of tigers, lions and hippos each in recent months under the Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (SPPRA) rules, 2010.
Apparently, no process had been carried out to determine the credentials of the company against which a case was pending in a court, said the sources. According to Sindh wildlife department officials, Three B Enterprise first came to light when it brought two pairs of tigers and three lions (two females and one male) to Karachi allegedly on a fake permit in 2007.
“We couldn’t confiscate the animals since the consignment had already been handed over to the relevant party when the Islamabad-based National Council for Conservation of Wildlife [NCCW] informed the Sindh wildlife department that the no-objection certificate sent to it by the customs authorities for verification was found to be fake,” said an SWD official while speaking to Dawn.
He said Three B Enterprise seemed to have a close association with Osaka Traders, because the Sindh wildlife department record says both had same business address. Two cases, he said, were pending against Osaka Traders for allegedly bringing five tigers (three males and two females) on a fake permit in 2007 and later ‘importing’ four lions (two males and two females) on an expired permit in 2010 at a time when import of big cats by the private sector was banned in the country.
No animal could be confiscated in the former case, because the department came to know about it only after the NOC was sent to the NCCW for verification, he said. In the latter’s case, four lions were seized at the Karachi airport as the NCCW had informed the wildlife department in advance about the animals.
After an inquiry carried out by the customs department, Osaka Traders and the PIA Rawalpindi office were fined. The national flag carrier was penalised for colluding with the importer to clear the subject lions through domestic side of airport by bringing them on a domestic flight from Islamabad to Karachi without presenting the documents to the customs authorities at Islamabad airport as required under the trans-shipment by air rules of 2009.
All the three cases registered by the wildlife department were pending in the Malir district court.
It is important to note that the Osaka Traders is the same company that had brought four African elephants for Safari Park and Karachi Zoological Gardens in 2009. The defunct city district government of Karachi, according to media reports, had paid Rs19.8 million to the trader for the animals, which were actually gifted by the Tanzanian government to Pakistan free of cost for educational purposes.
To investigate the credentials of Osaka Traders, an inquiry has recently been completed by the Federal Investigation Agency on a request of Interpol.
Speaking to Dawn, Safari Park Director Bashir Saddozai said the procurement was carried out according to the SPPRA rules. “There is no pre-qualification procedure for this purpose in the rules. The tender was open to all and awarded to the lowest bidder,” he said.
He said that it was not the job of the KMC but of certain other government departments to blacklist contractors or suppliers. But, he said, no complaint had ever been received against Three B Enterprise, which was given a contract for the import of pairs of tigers, lions and hippos.
He added that the Three B Enterprise hadn’t been convicted in any case in court.
“We had sent our documents to the NCCW to acquire an NOC for the import and so far the wildlife department has raised no objections,” said Mr Saddozai.
Procurers can blacklist suppliers, say rules
While SPPRA rules restrict prequalification of suppliers and contractors only to cases of contracts related to large and complex works and services and involving high costs of preparing detailed bids, there is a clause (35) that allows the procuring agency to blacklist suppliers, contractors and consultants.
According to this clause, the procuring agency has been authorised to blacklist suppliers, contractors or consultants, individually or collectively as part of consortium on grounds; (a) conviction of fraud, corruption, criminal misappropriation, theft, forgery, bribery or any other criminal record (b) involvement in corrupt and fraudulent practices while obtaining or attempting to obtain a procurement contract; final decision by a court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction that the contractor of supplier is guilty of tax evasion (c) wilful failure to perform in accordance with the terms of one or more than one contract (d) failure to remedy underperforming contracts, as identified by the procuring agency, where underperforming is due to the fault of the contractor, supplier or consultant.
‘No NOC issued yet’
Sindh wildlife department chief Saeed Akhtar Baloch said that no NOC had been issued to the company so far. The process was under way, he added.
He explained: “In fact the NCCW has returned the documents to us without issuing an NOC. The council has asked us to check the facilities where the imported animals would be kept. It has also asked the KMC to attach relevant CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permits required for the import,” he said.
Mr Baloch said that the department would raise its concern only when it got the entire details about the company that had been given the contract for importing animals.