$3.3m embezzled in hajj operations, allege MPs
The lower house summoned Daud Sultanzoy, presidential advisor, Haj and Religious Affairs Minister Faiz Mohammad Usmani, Aryana Airlines Chief Daud Sharifi, Civil Aviation Director Cap. Hamid to brief lawmakers about the hajj operations.
Naqibullah Faiq, a lawmaker from Faryab province, alleged Sultanzoy had embezzled more than $3 million in the haj process and demanded an investigation against him.
The lawmaker claimed having evidence in support of his claim and Soltanzoy’s involvement in the misappropriation of funds.
He alleged local airline companies were ready to transfer pilgrims to Mecca against lower rates but Sultanzoy, who did not appear before the house, inked the contracts with foreign companies at higher rates.
According to him, the Afghan government inked a contract with Aryana Airlines to transfer and bring back pilgrims from Saudi Arabia for a total cost of $1,045 per head including return ticket.
Then the pilgrims transfer committee headed by Sultanozy inked a contract with a Nigerian airline which offered $8,600 per hour air travel, but the committee inked the contract with the company for $12,000 per hour air travel, thus $2.7 million were misappropriated, Faiq said.
He said the air journey from Kabul to Jeddah was four hours and 10 minutes, but in the contract it had been mentioned five hours and this way $590 per person were embezzled.
He said the airlines that carried Afghan pilgrims had been lacking insurance facility and was banned in some foreign countries and in case of an accident, the company was not responsible.
Kamal Nasir Osuli, a lawmaker from Khost province was of the view that the embezzlement had taken place in the pilgrims transfer process and said that the president had given the vital job to a person who lacked public backing.
Haj and Religious Affairs Minister Faiz Mohammad Usmani told lawmakers that the haj expenses per head had declined from $2,700 to $2,450 last year when three times meals were served to the pilgrims. He said there was a $10 million decline in the overall hajj expenses.
The minister said $23 million afghanis had been allocated for the treatment of children with heart diseases and $500,000 for the construction of a mosque.
Civil Aviation Director Cpt. Hamid said he had no information about the embezzlement, adding that in line with a presidential decree, Sultanzoy was appointed as chief of the pilgrim committee and the civil aviation authority had no role in misappropriation of funds.
Haji Zahir Qadir, first deputy of Wolesi Jirga who chaired the session, said the hajj process had been fairly completed for which the ministry should be praised.
About the possible embezzlement, he said, Soltanzoy should arrive in the house to respond to the allegations.
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