The government is likely to hand over urea import and distribution business to local fertilizer manufacturing companies as massive corruption and mismanagement have been reported in the National Fertilizer Marketing Limited (NFML), a subsidiary of Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P), well informed sources told Business Recorder.
The sources said, Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet which is scheduled to meet on Thursday (today) will discuss ways and means to eliminate corruption in NFML. “Finance Minister, Senator Ishaq Dar has proposed import of urea through local fertilizer manufacturers on the basis of allocated quota aimed at providing fertilizer to farmers at fixed rates,” the sources added.
The government imports urea worth tens of billions of rupees through Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) on the instructions of Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of Cabinet and distributes it to farmers through dealers” network of NFML. However, both the public sector organisations ie. TCP and NFML were reportedly found involved in corruption and the top officials of these organisations were interrogated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Minister for Industries and Production, Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi and Secretary Industries, Shafqat Naghmi are well aware of the entire urea import distribution scam, the sources added.
When contacted Secretary Industries said that, “I have never defended Cheema and that is why he was surrendered and has also left charge in NFML. All 93000 tons from Hawksbay has been transported already. I have ordered that those responsible be suspended and their cases be sent to FIA. If NFML has not sent these cases to FIA then I will take them to task”. On December 17, 2013, Secretary Industries wrote a letter to Managing Director, NFML/ Chairman NFC and General Manager NFML stating “I was informed that 0.2 million tons of urea was lying in Hawksbay. On checking it transpired that 93000 tons of urea was indeed hoarded there. You are directed to get this urea transported within three days. You are further directed to suspend all the concerned staff and also send this case to FIA for investigation,” said Shafqat Naghmi in his letter, a copy of which is available with Business Recorder.
He also directed Managing Director, NFML to explain why such a large amount of urea was not transported despite a shortage of urea in the country. Insiders further claim that neither the MoI&P nor the NFML have sent the case to the FIA so far and the inquiry in the Ministry is an eye wash. The main source of income in imported urea is supply of underweight urea to farmers, transporters and dealers.
Transporters, sources said, are now directly dealt with by the Secretary Industries whereas the task of distribution has been given to an official who can be easily influenced. NAB investigation team recovered a total of 7809 underweight urea bags from godowns. There are confirmed reports that NFML officials stationed at stores” mix sand, powder and mud in each bag of urea. Accusations against stores in charge include dumping urea in Karachi and selling it to chemical factories and the transport charges per trailer are about Rs 300,000, which a senior marketing official reportedly pockets in collaboration with the carriage contractors.
The sources said, the issue of import of urea by TCP and its distribution through NFML came under discussion in the ECC, in its last meeting wherein a proposal was floated that the existing urea import mechanism should be done away with. The Finance Minister, who is also Chairman of the ECC, floated the idea that the import of urea be given to local manufacturers and ECC may allocate quota for import on “need basis” to local producers, the sources continued.
The sources said, urea import plan through local fertilizer manufacturers would be examined by a Committee headed by Minister for National Food Security, Finance Secretary as convener and Ministry of Commerce and Industries as Member. The Committee would submit its report to the ECC after 15 days.
According to sources, Minister for Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan raised the issue of importance of fertilizer review committee and suggested it be used more effectively in future. He argued this committee be housed in Ministry of Food Security as the subject falls under the purview of that Ministry as per rules of business. Secretary Planning and Development informed the house that he has finalised his report. Ends