- Old signaling system caused six lives and 100 injured in Multan
- For Railways ‘usual suspect’ is driver
- No inquiry initiated yet about Rs16b spending on acquiring modern signaling system
- Audit reveals ‘criminal neglect’ in the project
- PM Nawaz Sharif is urged to order probe into the matter
- Many precious lives could have been saved
By Iram Salim
(Pakdestiny.com) Accidents like that of Sept 14 involving a passenger train and a goods train near Multan that left six passengers dead and 100 injured might have been averted had Pakistan Railways under Khawaja Saad Rafique could have acquired a modern “signaling systems” after taking a little pain.
The railways had ‘wasted’ Rs16.57 billion on two ‘signaling projects’ but nobody at the helm of affairs seems to be interested in probing the matter.
Both signalling systems were supposed to be installed long time ago. Had they were installed today Saad Rafique and other top railways officials were not looking for a ‘scapegoat’ for the accident. Will Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inquire from Saad Rafique about the railways inability to secure the system even after spending such a huge amount? could be anybody’s guess.
The Railways Internal Audit Report 2016 reveals that in two signaling projects – Shahdara to Lodhran and signal rehabilitation project from Bin Qasim to Mirpur Mathelo – the railways has suffered huge losses because of ‘incompetence, care free attitude and sheer complacency’ which leads to criminal neglect where the management absolves itself of all responsibility, putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the drivers in such accidents.
The auditors further detected that Pakistan Railways (PR) could not modernize the signalling systems despite heavy expenses of Rs16.57 spent on it. The contracts awarded in this regard were at variance with Letters of Intent.
Multiple anomalies and variations in contracts were uncovered during the audit as vital specifications impinging upon serviceability and performance of the equipment were ignored, it says. “Refloating of non-compliant tenders was foreclosed and deliverables were shown to be achievable only at a projected revised cost of Rs 24.68 billion yet trailing behind in actual physical completion of the projects. And still more funds were being sought for allocation through proposed revisions in the PC-1 that too after 40 months leading to increase in payment liability of PR,” the audit reveals.
In this case the PC-1 was approved without meeting conditionalities, other essentials were camouflaged citing lame excuses. Wanton contravention of financial phasing derailed the projects and instance of maladministration, financial impropriety and inefficiency resulted into gross financial indiscipline.
Ironically, although such accidents are the result of factors summarized above and including dilapidated track conditions, unserviceable sleepers, diminishing rolling stocks etc yet it is always the train drivers that are to blame and whose neck finds the noose…
To cover their own shortcomings and negligence PR appoints people from within its own organization to conduct the inquiry. Usually fabricated inquiry findings are made public covering the actual causes of accidents. And no action, whatsoever is taken against the actual culprits. In due course of time the dust settles and everything is forgotten and the public awaits a fresh accident.
The million dollar question arises here who will investigate Rs16.57 billion spent on acquiring of modern signalling system? The railways minister will never allow any one to look into this financial bungling. PM Sharif must not let his minister from his home town escape the probe this time by the National Accountability Bureau on this serious matter.
Even now if this system is acquired and installed after punishing and recovering the looted money many lives could be safe to avert future accidents caused by old signal system. — Pak Destiny