‘Sugar crisis report shows that businessmen in politics will put business first’: Shahzad Akbar

Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday decided to make public the findings of the Sugar Inquiry Commission which has established that major sugar mills in the country underreported sales and committed fraud. Addressing a joint press conference with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is committed to accountability and transparency in governance. Speaking on the occasion, Akbar said that Sugar Inquiry Commission was established to ascertain the reasons of increase in sugar prices in the last few years. He said that the commission gave its detailed report to special cabinet meeting held on Thursday and the report explicitly says that sugar mill owners pay amount to sugarcane growers even less than the support price. In addition, all sugar mills make cuts in the weight of sugarcane from 15 to 30 per cent, he added. The SAPM said that commission also found irregularities in the form of giving advance payments to farmers in the form of cash or commodity, which is akin to unregulated banking. “Today is very important in history of Pakistan as no government ever made such commissions in the past,” he said. He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed all government advisers to declare their assets to ensure transparency. Akbar said that a subsidy of Rs29 billion was given to sugar industry in the last five years. “A mill called Alliance from Rahim Yar Khan — partially owned by Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) senior leader Moonis Elahi — was audited. It showed that between 2014 to 2018, 11-14 per cent systematic cut was done for farmers, which translated to Rs970 million and was a huge blow to them,” Akbar said. He said that it was found that total income tax of around 88 sugar mills of the country is ten billion rupees, after getting a tax refund. He added that the mill under-reported sugar sales “for years” and sold the commodity to unnamed buyers. The report mentioned violations of the Pakistan Penal Code, he said. Akbar also mentioned the JDW sugar mill in which PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen owns 21 per cent shares. He said that according to the report, the mill committed “double booking, under-reporting and over-invoicing”.