Mismanagement and Irregularities in School Procurement

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According to a news report published by Daily The News, the acquisition of school furniture during the tenure of former education minister Syed Sardar Shah has been revealed to be marred by extensive mismanagement, irregularities, and substantial corruption, as per a government report presented to the Sindh High Court (SHC). The report, submitted in response to a case addressing the absence of furniture in public schools, raises serious concerns about the allocation and utilization of public funds.

Over the two-year period under Syed Sardar Shah’s administration, an astonishing Rs7.36 billion was expended on school furniture, prompting alarm over fiscal responsibility. The report, linked to a case spanning from 2012-13 to 2022-23, discloses a whopping Rs28.13 billion earmarked for furniture purchases through the school education department. However, only Rs9.35 billion was spent, with a substantial Rs7.37 billion squandered during Shah’s term.

In the fiscal year 2021-22, furniture worth Rs3.21 billion was procured, followed by an additional Rs4.16 billion spent in 2022-23. Surprisingly, no furniture was procured during four fiscal years from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

Significant disparities in purchase costs have come to light through additional information obtained by The News from various sources. Dual tables were reportedly acquired for an exorbitant Rs29,000 per table, far exceeding the market price of Rs8,000 to Rs9,000 per table. Even accounting for inflation, the current market price is anticipated to be between Rs15,000 and Rs17,000 per table.

Despite these irregularities, the National Accountability Bureau has yet to take action on this colossal scandal. Suspicions of corruption have also emerged at the level of school education directors in multiple locations. Directors in Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, and Sukkur are accused of disbursing Rs360 million for tables from a supplier who disappeared after receiving the order. Another corruption case, involving Rs700 million to Rs800 million, led to the suspension of the Sukkur school education director and his staff.

The report by the Sindh chief secretary underscores the misappropriation of funds, establishing that despite the staggering expenditures on school furnishings, schools in the province are deteriorating and susceptible to damage. A subsequent inspection by the Umerkot family judge, as disclosed in the report, prompted SHC’s Justice Salahuddin Panhwar to take action against the supplier involved in the corruption.

These disconcerting revelations raise significant questions about accountability and transparency in the procurement practices of the Sindh School Education Department. The precarious condition of the province’s schools, coupled with the widespread lack of critical infrastructure, particularly suitable furnishings, remains a source of concern. Many schools are grappling with issues such as insufficient classroom space and dilapidated facilities, directly impacting the learning environment. The lack of appropriate furniture impedes students’ ability to engage in a conducive learning environment, demanding a comprehensive investigation into the matter.

Acknowledgement: The original news was published by Daily The News on January 15, 2023

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