Irregularities of 3.49 billion rupees observed in the Billion Tree Tsunami project

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PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s Auditor General has detected over Rs 3.493 billion in irregularities during the three-year special audit of PTI’s flagship 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project (BTTP). The auditor declared Rs 1,259 million doubtful payment and Rs 983 million fictitious expenses.

About 1.25 billion rupees were declared irregular, unnecessary, illegal and unnecessary. The planting of 36% eucalyptus was done against the 10% provision of PC-1, resulting in a financial loss of Rs 11.96 million in addition to huge usurpation of water leading to land reclamation, creating a threat to the environment.

About 199 due diligence paras revealed false and excessive reporting by staff, putting a question mark over project transparency. The auditor recommended a high-level investigation as well as immediate recovery from those who caused the losses.

During the special audit of the BTTP for the financial year 2019 to 2021, it was found that various fences of the project located in different circles on 16,953.74 hectares were part of the project. The GPS measurement showed an over-claimed area, inflicting a loss of Rs 305.523 million on the Treasury.

The auditor is of the opinion that there is a high risk of misuse in the implementation of the fences. The high degree of overlap has called into question the management and professionalism of the entire chain of command. He said that if a professional attitude had been adopted, such a loss would not have occurred. The entire chain of command was responsible for this loss and has been exposed.

It was surprising to observe that some officials made false reports on project achievements which were duly verified by the PMU monitoring team. The false report was carried out in the forestry divisions of Chitral, Dir Kohistan, Lower Dir, Malakand, Kunhar Watershed and Unhar Watershed. The auditor is of the opinion that the reporting of false zones was a fraudulent practice which may not be justified. He recommended that an investigation be opened to determine the responsibility as well as the recovery of Rs 353.312 million from the culprits.

Similarly, several forestry divisions have fictitiously claimed plantation activities in different areas, overlapping with areas under the BTTP. The auditor said the loss occurred due to overlapping planting areas of other DPOs. The Conservator’s follow-up report resulted in an area claimed for the project. He said DFO Orakzai and Galies Forestry Division cultivated 7,671,400 plants in different nurseries while said divisions showed the use of 10,912,930 plants in different interventions. However, no location of the excess use of the factories amounting to Rs 32.415 million was shown in the audit which made the activities inauthentic and dubious.

The auditor said that uncertified and ungraded seeds obtained from unauthentic sources not only caused losses of Rs 109.365 million to the government but also increased the risk of failure. The nursery cost estimates have not been verified by the specialized unit of the Department of the Environment. He observed that different circles raised various nurseries under the BTTP from which 51,070,457 plants were obtained. Among them, 28,000,122 plants were shown to be in use while the whereabouts of the remaining 23,070,335 plants worth Rs 195.701 million were unverified. He recommended a factual investigation to determine responsibility as well as the immediate recovery of Rs 195.701 million from those at fault.

It was reported that in Mardan Forestry Division (355 hectares) was charged for block planting by staff. It was revealed during the extensive review of the case that the actual area measured by the monitoring team was 38.08 hectares, causing a loss to the government to the tune of 22.6 million rupees. It has been observed that the DFO Kohistan watershed has performed poor land stabilization activity in various places. It was surprising to find that the sites, namely Dedal 19 ha, and Chakesar 23 ha, were shown to be stabilized, but 34 ha did not physically exist on the ground. The auditor was of the opinion that the sites had been invoiced fictitiously and had caused a loss to the Treasury amounting to Rs 5.168 million.

The report revealed that the PMU project manager paid Rs 70.152 million to DFO Mardan in 2019-2020. DFO reported that almost all the interventions were in excellent condition while review of the relevant file revealed that the Rs 8,500 million plantation carried out along Swat Highway, Katlang was in the worst condition state. It was surprising that the surveillance officer stated that the area was in excellent condition when the same was reported by senior officials at the same time. This contradiction clearly indicates that the surveillance officers intentionally made false declarations to the competent authority.

After the verification test, the auditor was of the opinion that false surveillance reports had been generated for the entire Mardan division. There was a high risk of misappropriation of government resources used in the BTTP. False surveillance reports call into question the transparency of planting activities carried out in the division. The auditor recommended prompt recovery from the manager.

It was noticed that different forest divisions showed eucalyptus plantations in violation of the PC-1 allocation of 10% of the total plantation. Careful examination of the file revealed that 36% of eucalyptus plantations had been made compared to the provision of 10% of PC-1. The irregularity was a violation of PC-1 resulting in a financial loss of 11.96 rupees in addition to huge usurpation of water, resulting in land reclamation and creating a threat to the environment. Different forest divisions had distributed 19,706,685 plants to residents free of charge, but the record revealed that only 15,981,000 plants had been distributed. This indicated that the distribution had not been made or that only paperwork had been completed.

Similarly, in the catchments of Daur and Kunhar, Torghar, Upper and Lower Forest Divisions of Kohistan, 6,653,182 plants were freely distributed to the locals with a market value of Rs 57.736 million. The detailed list of beneficiaries was not provided for audit. The auditor was of the opinion that without proper record, the distribution of free plants amounting to Rs 57.736 million was dubious. It was noticed that various planting activities were carried out, but no updated planting logs duly endorsed before and after photographs of the activity and geo-mapping (shapefiles) of the areas. The auditor said that the absence of the aforementioned expenditure statement amounting to Rs 205.628 million could not be verified.

The audit report said that in Nagorno-Kohistan, it was noticed that Rs 500,000 had been committed under a scheme, but no details or records were available. Similarly, in Lower Kohistan, Rs 4.00 million was spent on developing rainwater, harvesting and water source schemes, but no details or records were available.

It was observed that DFO DI Khan was carrying out different activities in waterlogged areas while according to the monitoring report, said areas were dry and not waterlogged. The auditor stated that the sites cited above were dry. This caused a loss of 5.550 million rupees to the Treasury. He observed that the Rs 288.877 million incurred due to the procurement of vehicles by the PD PMU was considered wasteful as the department also procured almost the same number of vehicles under the BTAP. He said that the BTTP was the sister project of the BTAP and that the same vehicles could also have been used. In addition, the acquisition of vehicles by direct purchase from Indus Motors amounting to Rs 288.877 million as well as contracts were not signed by the PD PMU. The DFO Lower Dir has executed various activities amounting to Rs 11.57 million but no updated plantation records have been approved by the Directorate of Human Resources and Management.

It was noticed that Rs 25.97 million was pledged for the procurement of various materials but no inventory records or tender documents were presented for verification to authenticate the purchase , use and issuance of said material, which made the entire expenditure of Rs. 25.97 million questionable.

The spokesperson for the Department of Forestry, Environment and Wildlife, while reacting to the audit report, said that a special audit was being carried out by the AGP office. The draft report for the first two years of the BTTP has been received and sent to the departments concerned for feedback. Verification paras would be established by the departmental committee. He said the BTTP was a federal project. KP aims to raise 1 billion plants at a cost of Rs 27.3 billion, shared equally by PSDP and ADP. However, so far, only Rs 11 billion had been paid to the KP with around 50% of the ADP and PSDP.

“About Rs 3 billion have been released to the Nigaihbans of enclosures while Rs 2 billion to the Chowkidars of various interventions through crossed checks. In addition, the purchase of about Rs 3 billion for 30 tractors, 30 water vehicles, plants, polythene bags, soil, etc. had been sought through a competitive bidding process,” he said.


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