K-P govt grilled over Ehtesab chief

Opposition stages walkout after deputy speaker tried to stop follow-up question

Sohail Khattak February 20, 2018
According to a press release issued by the Ehtesab Commission, The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission (Amendment) Act, 2016, passed by the present Government has enabled it to carry out the activities in full swing. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government came in for a grilling in the provincial assembly on Monday for failing to appoint a regular director general for its flagship institution, the Ehtesab Commission.

The matter came under discussion during the question hour when the law minister failed to give a satisfactory answer to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Fakhr Azam Wazir.

Wazir had asked why the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Ehtesab Commission was operating with a temporary chief instead of a permanent one.

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The government submitted a reply that former incumbent, Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Khan had resigned on February 24, 2016. Ever since Brigadier (retd) Muhammad Sajjad was given an acting charge.

“The Ehtesab Commission is working legally and independently and there is no illegality in its working and the matter is subjudice in the court,” the reply read.

On Monday, Wazir objected to the answer, demanding that the government tell the house under what law was the K-PEC operating under an acting director general for nearly two years.

Wazir was joined by Awami National Party (ANP) lawmaker Sardar Hussain Babak, who accosted the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for their much-touted accountability and claim of eliminating corruption.

He added that the law minister had no real answer to the question and was trying to dodge it by labelling the issue as subjudice.

After Deputy Speaker Dr Mehar Taj Roghani tried to paper over the crack by skipping Wazir’s follow-up question, the opposition walked out of the house in protest.

Later, the opposition was persuaded to return after Local Government Minister Inayatullah Khan and Higher Education Minister Mushtaq Ghani assured the opposition that the matter would be taken up in a special committee of the K-P assembly.

“KPEC is a flagship institution of the incumbent government so a discussion on it in the house or a committee of the assembly is a positive gesture from the government and it shall go to the credit of the government,” explained Inayatullah, adding that the discussion and any action suggested to address shortcomings in KPEC should be welcomed by the government.

The house will discuss the DG appointment issue in a special committee comprising the parliamentary leaders of all the political parties in the assembly along with Wazir. The report of the committee will be presented in the house.

The house also constituted a committee under the supervision of Speaker Asad Qaiser for resolving the issue of tobacco cess for Swabi and is expected to present its report to the house within 12 days.

The House passed four bills seeking amendments in their respective laws, including the K-P Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (second amendment) Bill 2018. Under the bill, the law secretary was included in the board of directors of the K-P Public Procurement Authority. Moreover, the civil courts were limited from acting on anything done by a procuring entity under the K-P Public Procurement Authority Act in good faith.

It also enabled the procuring entity to conduct the bidding process through electronic means.

The house also passed the K-P Establishment of Information Technology Board (Amendment) Act 2018 seeking the merger of the K-P Information Technology Directorate along with all its assets with the K-P Information Technology Board.

All the projects of the directorate along with its employees will now be transferred to the board.

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The house also passed the K-P Public Service Commission (Amendment) Act 2018, seeking an amendment to the functions of the commission.

It also passed the K-P Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (amendment) Act 2018, which defines the criteria for the appointment of ombudsperson under the act.

The bill stipulates that the ombudsperson must be a judge of a high court or a retired civil servant of known integrity with 15 years service or has been one or qualified to be one. Moreover, they shall not be of more than 65-years-of-age and not less than 45-years-od-age.

A committee comprising the chief secretary in the chair and members including secretary social welfare, secretary finance, secretary law and secretary establishment shall recommend a panel of candidates for filling the slot.

The ombudsperson shall be appointed for three years and shall be eligible for all perks and privileges admissible to Basic Pay Scale-21 officer.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2018.