Govt Makes Sugar Inquiry Commission’s Report Public


Govt makes Sugar inquiry Commission’s report public

Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar has termed the report historic, saying that neither such investigation was conducted in such matters nor any government had the courage to make the investigation public.

ISLAMABAD: (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News-May 22nd, 2020) The Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Ministry and chief of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) Shahzad Akbar said that it was PTI which made commission to investigate corruption and made the inquiry report public.

He said the previous government never conducted such investigation into public money and different projects n the past.

“Neither such investigation was conducted over such matters in the pat nor any government had the courage to make the investigation public,” said Shahzad Akbar while addressing press conference on Thursday.

The inquiry commission made by Prime Minister Imran Khan for forensic audit of the matter was led by DG FIA Wajid Zia.

In his press conference, Mirza Shahzad Akbar said the commission gave its detailed report to special cabinet meeting, adding that the commission was set up because there was a cycle of sugar price increases from December 2018 to August 2019, leading the price to 33% hike in rupee terms translated to Rs17 per kilogram.

He said the reported highlighted that sugar mill owners paid an amount to sugarcane growers even lower than the support price. Moreover, all sugar mills made cuts in the weight of sugarcane of 15 to 30 percent.

He pointed out that the Commission also found irregularities in the form of giving advance payments to farmers in the form of cash or commodity, which was equal to unregulated banking.

PM Imran Khan, he said, directed all government advisors to declare their assets to ensure transparency.

A subsidy of 29 billion rupees, he pointed out, was given to sugar industry in the last five years, saying that it was found that total income tax of around 88 sugar mills of the country was ten billion rupees, after getting a tax refund. He said six big groups of Pakistan have a 51 percent share of the sugar industry.

Akbar said the report of the Inquiry Commission has revealed many things, adding that this a case of violation of the Benami Act and tax evasion.

He said that the price of sugar in the market increases through various tactics and rising prices only hurt the general public.

The special assistant said the report revealed that the Omni Group in Sindh had benefited from the subsidies provided by the provincial government, adding that the report revealed Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah‘s name.

He further said that sugar was exported to Afghanistan but there was no match when the sugar export data was checked and there was a difference of billions. This is a joke that has never been checked, he said.

He said that the company owned by Shehbaz Sharif s family engaged in "double reporting". He said the Al-Arabiya Sugar Mills owned by Salman Shehbaz Sharif was also audited, which found to be involved in a fraud of Rs 400 million through informal receipts and market manipulation.

He said the audit of Alliance Sugar Mill from Rahim Yar Khan partially owned by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) senior leader Moonis Elahi, showed that between 2014 to 2018, it made a systematic cut of 11 to 14 percent of the amount it owed to the farmers, which translated to Rs 970 million.

Shahzad Akbar said the report revealed that certain sugar mills used informal receipts and it was ultimately the farmer, who was crushed because there was no official record. The mill owners showed the price of production to be more than the support price which meant that farmers earned less than the support price.

He said it was the first time that an "independent inquiry" was held into the cost of production, adding that in 2017-18, sugar mills determined the cost of production at Rs 51 per kilograms whereas as per the calculations of the commission it was estimated at Rs 38 instead.

Similarly in 2018-19, the sugar mills gave the cost price of one kg at Rs 52.60 while according to the report the estimated cost was Rs 40, he added.

The SAPM said the report also pointed out that the sucrose content as shown by the Pakistani mills owners (9.5pc to 10.5pc) was less than the international standard.

He said on the one hand, the inflated cost of production and market manipulation were being done and on the other, accounting fraud was also being committed by the sugar mill owners.

Talking about all those figures which were very important for the ruling PTI, Akbar said six major sugar groups were audited and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Moonis Elahi and Omar Shehryar had shares in the ownership of Alliance Mill.

He pointed out that sugar mills belonging to Jahangir Tareen’s group were found guilty of "double billing" and "over-invoicing" as well as "corporate fraud". Mentioning the JDW Sugar Mills in which Jahangir Tareen owned 21 percent shares, he claimed that according to the report, the mill management was involved in double booking, under-reporting and over-invoicing. It under-invoiced sales from bagasse and molasses, which resulted in 25 percent cost inflation. The mill was involved in forward sales, satta and benami sales.

Speaking of Khusro Bakhtiar, he said that his brother is the one who owns a sugar mill and does not hold political office. "We cannot ask Khusro Bakhtiar to resign from his post (as minister for food security). An inquiry will be initiated against whoever is directly involved."

Fida Hussnain

Fida Hussnain is a lahore based journalist. He writes on politics, religion, social issues and climate change. He is also a research fellow at University of Gujrat.