PIA suspends two officers in Rs19m scam RAHIM YAR KHAN: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) authorities suspended two officers of the finance department and transferred seven others from marketing and counter ticketing departments of the local office here after serving show-cause notices on all of them in the first week of May on charges of financial embezzlement worth Rs19.2 million.
According to sources in the PIA, this irregularity was disclosed by a director of a Sadiqabad-based travel agency to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) after he developed differences with fellow directors and chief executive officer (CEO) of the agency and was fired in Dec 2016.
He alleged that the corruption started in Sept 2013 and continued till Dec 2016. It was carried out by the travel agency Wakalatul Fursan Travels and Tours (WFTT), the then PIA district sales manager (DSM) and officials of the revenue department in the Karachi head office of the airlines; most irregularities were found in the sale of international tickets.
Sources told Dawn that WFTT CEO Saad Ansari and directors Zubair Ansari and Hassaan Irtaza had their travel agency approved as a PIA passenger sales agent (PSA) by approaching former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in 2013. They deposited a security amount of Rs2.5m with the airlines and started selling domestic as well as international tickets.
Transfers seven other employees
The sources further said that the irregularity began when Finance Manager (FM) Rahat Rasool and Senior Accounts Officer (SAO) Muhammad Bakhsh Khan allowed the WFTT to exceed the cap – maximum limit on sale of tickets corresponding to the security deposit of Rs2.5m — with the connivance of the then DSM Abdul Ghaffar Shehzad. This continued till Nov 2015 after which Abdul Khaliq Mahar took over as the DSM, but allegedly ignored the irregularity.
The permission to a travel agency to exceed capping is authorised by PIA’s finance department (FM and SAO), marketing and sales department (DSM and sales promotion officer) and revenue department in the Karachi head office.
From 2013 to 2016, the SAO received manual sales reports of WFTT instead of computerised ones against the standard practice, and did not inform the finance manager.
The DSM, sales promotion officer (SPO) and FM as well as officers of the revenue department in Karachi failed to carry out their responsibilities and keep a check on the sales of WFTT. The difference in capping increased fortnightly for three and a half years, but the PIA’s finance and sales systems could not detect this irregularity.
As differences emerged between the WFTT directors and CEO, Irtaza was fired in Dec 2016 after which he wrote a letter to the NAB and FIA about this fraud of Rs19.2m and the agencies forwarded the matter to PIA higher authorities that delinked their system from the travel agency.
Last week, PIA authorities started an inquiry into the matter after suspending FM Rasool and SAO Khan. Seven officers, including DSM Abdul Haq Mahar, SPO Muslim Sajid Gondal, and counter ticketing officers Raes Muhammad Irshaad Chachar, Jam Shehzad, Tariq Hussain, Raees Irshaad Chachar and Mubashar Hasan Naro, were transferred to Karachi.
WFTT Director Ansari told Dawn that he was not authorised to speak on the matter and referred to Irtaza, who did not respond despite repeated called.
DSM Mahar told Dawn that in 2013, a circular had been released that the finance and accounts department could not issue manual sales reports. In 2015, PIA authorities released a standard operating procedure that the FM would be responsible for checking in the system when a travel agency’s sales limit would increase and inform the DSM who would allow the increase after collecting cheque from the agency worth the desired cap. It was also the responsibility of the FM to inform the DSM about the difference in sales and capping of the agency every 15 days.
Mahar further claimed that he sent an email to the FM on March 9 that a WFTT director had written to the NAB regarding irregularity worth millions in sales. But the FM replied on March 15 that the sales report was clear. He said when the head office checked their records, it was revealed that the FM had made an incorrect statement at which the authorities suspended her and the SAO.
Mahar further explained that the embezzled amount was Rs19.2m, while the PIA had imposed a penalty of Rs6.2m on WFTT for not paying the dues.
Newly appointed PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar said that a proper investigation had been launched from the period of former Rahim Yar Khan DSM Shehzad and all the officers involved in the financial irregularity had been relieved of their duty after issuing them show-cause notices.
He said all the officers had been called to the Karachi head office and till credible evidence was found they would not be punished, but would not be spared either. PIA officials had contacted the ministry of aviation regarding the PSA and a letter sent to the airlines legal department for further guidelines against the agent.
He claimed that PIA will claim its amount from the travel agent after completing legal formalities.