ISLAMABAD: The people involved in the olive tree scam, which was unearthed earlier this year, have yet to be penalised, though the evidence clearly indicates misappropriation in the project that is worth Rs2.44 billion.

The project was part of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) aimed at promoting olive cultivation across the country to reduce the hefty edible oil import bill.

The National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) in November last year awarded a tender to a company for providing 400,000 imported olive plants. Upon arrival, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) gave a go-ahead certificate for the distribution of these plants despite the fact that most of them were infected and undersized.

According to details, initially when the issue surfaced, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research constituted a six-member inquiry committee to determine the reasons and find the people responsible for the loss.

The committee unearthed mismanagement and lapses in the procurement process handled by NARC and the olive project management. The committee also listed other factors that contributed to poor communication with the supplier such as mistakes in the supply order, poor supply terms and conditions, less-than-efficient inspection procedure, negligence on the part of management and poor coordination.

It noted that the importing company mishandled imports and ignored the quality standards, especially the size and health of plants. It concluded that the onus lay on both sides – the importing company and the project management.

The report also held the DPP responsible for the lack of observation and quality control despite the presence of fungus. It was also observed that, against the agreed terms and conditions, supplies did not start within the stipulated period of 45 days.

On March 9, 2016 while showing its dissatisfaction over the inquiry into the olive project, the National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research constituted another committee to further probe the issue.

NARC spokesperson Ghulam Mustafa did not respond when he was approached over phone for comments.

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