Food dept admits anomalies in wheat buying
LAHORE, Dec 3: The Punjab food department has admitted anomalies in its wheat procurement drive by revealing that it procured less wheat than the credit limit it secured from the federal government for the financial year 2011-12.
It also alleges that Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation procures the commodity of Sindh but mentions it in the Punjab record.
“The provincial government had sought credit limit for four million ton wheat procurement. The federal government approved credit for 3.5 million ton but the actual procurement stood at 2.8 million ton,” Punjab Food Secretary Irfan Ali told Public Accounts Committee-I of the Punjab Assembly here on Monday.
Admitting wrongdoings in distribution of gunny bags to growers, he blamed the revenue department, saying the main reason for the misuse was the revenue record which, he alleged, was contrary to ground realities.
To resolve the issue, PAC Chairman Chaudhry Zaheer suggested considering past five-year gunny bag demand record of growers.
Also admitting corruption in food department, Ali argued that the policy of recovering dues without dismissing the corrupt officials was encouraging the accused.
“There are dozens of employees facing inquiries and allegation but the (flawed) recovery has become their protector instead of penalising them. Corruption can be eliminated only if recovery and dismissals are undertaken simultaneously,” he said.
About Passco’s procurement drive, a food department officer told the body that the corporation procured wheat from Sindh while posting its officers in Hafizabad. “We know too much. But, better it is not to make us speak about it.”
In response to a query, the secretary said the provincial government procured just 30 per cent of the total wheat output as it lacked capacity for 100 per cent procurement.
The PAC was told that the department took Rs73 billion loan for the current year and had so far paid Rs11 billion as mark up.
It was also told that no new silo was constructed during the last five years while the previous government had built a silo in Rawalpindi which was made operational in the ongoing year.
The PAC chairman directed construction of new silos under public-private partnership scheme and setting real targets for wheat procurement.
The secretary also opposed the raise in wheat support price saying it would fail to benefit small growers but would increase cost of food items as well as phasing out the country from world wheat market.
He suggested that the government should instead have provided benefit to growers through subsidised seed, water, fertilizers and other farm inputs.
He predicted fall in wheat production this year because of power and water crises and extraordinary increase in prices of other inputs.