PML – Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi pointed out that the embezzlement of 30 billion rupees from a sasti roti (cheap bread) program to provide food to the poor has been proved. PML-Q Web
Sasti roti scheme (Cheap bread) was a project, launched by the Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, back in the month of Ramadan in September 2008. Its main purpose was the welfare of the poor. From its inception, sasti roti at the price of Rs2 had been provided across the Punjab on enlisted tandoors in poor areas like slums, katchi abadies, industrial areas, worker/labor colonies, bus stands, near railway stations, hospital canteens etc.
To confirm the statement, Truth Tracker called Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s spokesman Iqbal Chaudhry and inquired about the source of information. Chaudhry confirmed Elahi’s statement regarding the embezzlement from the sasti roti program. He added that the source of information for this statement was the news report published in Daily Dunya Newspaper.
Truth Tracker reviewed the news published in Daily Dunya Newspaper on April 29, 2013. The news is all about sasti roti scheme, and it reported the following points:
- The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has revealed that 30 billion rupees were spent on sasti roti scheme in one fiscal year. This amount was paid to the different flour mills in Punjab.
- A report by AGP says Shahbaz Sharif government took loans worth Rs 25 billion from various commercial banks at 15.10 mark-up in 2009-2010 for making payment to some flour mills.
- When the time came for the return of these loans, it had no funds left in the exchequer for the purpose. As a result the Punjab government had to pay a fine of Rs 4 billion to these banks for delay in return of the amount.
- The document says that in 2009 and 2010, the Punjab government bought wheat at expensive rates and supplied it to the flour mills at a subsidized rate of Rs 410 per 40kg.
When Truth Tracker talked to Director Audit Punjab Muhammad Nasir, he denied all those facts published in the newspaper. He further said that the AGP Office had already issued a clarification in this regard, on June 7, 2013.
Former minister for finance of Punjab, Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, told Truth Tracker by telephone that 13 billion rupees were sanctioned for the whole project (6 billion released in 2008 and 7 billion in 2009). He said, “It was a four-years project though, but it could only operate for a couple of years and no funds were released in the last two years.” As far as the embezzlement is concerned, he said that although in last two years sasti roti was not available on enlisted tandoors, the sasti roti scheme authority, chaired by Muhammad Hanif Abbasi, was, even then, still not abolished.
After gathering all the information, Truth Tracker interviewed an economic analyst Qais Aslam, who said that in all governments there are issues of corruption, and that this was not new for the Punjab Government.
As far as Ilahi’s statement is concerned, it is more a political blame game rather than factual position. He pointed out why Mr. Ilahi did not raise this question at an appropriate forum when he was Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan. Mr. Aslam added that, no doubt, with this scheme rich people became more rich but this type of embezzlement is not of 30 billion rupees. Mr. Aslam expressed that it is hard to believe the amount mentioned for embezzlement in one year is bigger than the actual amount released for the project in four years.
While talking to Truth Tracker, an economic analyst Qais Aslam said, “All governments have corruption issues and the Punjab Government is not an exception. As far as Elahi’s statement is concerned, it is more of a political blame game rather than fact.” Aslam further asked why Elahi did not raise this question at an appropriate forum when he was Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan. “No doubt with this scheme rich people became richer, but this type of embezzlement is not of 30 billion rupees,” he said. “It is hard to believe the amount mentioned for embezzlement in one year is larger than the actual amount released for the whole project in four years,” Aslam added.
A Brief of audit report contained in clarification issued by the AGP on 7 June, 2013 revealed the following points:
- Audit observation contained in a report of the AGP has mentioned Rs.24.169 billion as the value of total subsidy by Government of the Punjab on food in 2009-10.
- The subsidy amounting to Rs 24.169 billion was composed of five different items, of which only one item amounting to Rs 6.32 billion pertained to the ‘Sasti Roti Scheme’.
- Further, the Report has not objected to the subsidy, rather it only objected to the incurred expenditure of Rs.3.64 billion as mark-up on account of delay in payment of claim of subsidy raised by the banks concerned.
- Audit Report is essentially focused on the Principal Accounting Officers of respective ministries/ departments/organizations.
Auditor General of Pakistan’s audit report does not confirm the embezzlement of 30 billion rupees in the sasti roti scheme. Total volume of the allocated funds does not match with Elahi’s statement. Truth Tracker rates Elahi’s statement as mostly false.