ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has hinted at banning the National Testing Service (NTS) as well as all other private testing bodies in the country for "playing with the futures of our children" and operating without any regulation.
PAC Chairperson Khursheed Shah on Tuesday was surprised when he was told that there is no regulatory body to oversee the affairs of these testing services.
The PAC was discussing an audit objection over the NTS's refusal to host the Departmental Accounting Committee (DAC) on the plea that it is not answerable to the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
“How can they dictate who and what is the authority of the DAC” Shah said. “Who allowed the NTS and other testing bodies to play with the future of our children?"
We should shut down such bodies which are running without rules and regulations, he added. "Universities could carry out their own tests like IBA Sukkur, IBA Karachi and some other universities,” he said.
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Federal Audit Director General Muhammad Azhar told the committee that NTS claimed to be an independent body. “It says it is an autonomous body and neither the HEC nor Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) has anything to do with it,” he stated.
The auditor also said there should be some auditor and regulator for such testing services. He suggested that the HEC could be the regulator. Shah, however, observed that the HEC is already overburdened with supervising over 160 universities.
HEC Executive Director Dr Arshad Ali told the committee that to resolve the issue after the NTS controversy, an Education Testing Council (ETC) was established, but Punjab and Sindh have objected to it and talks are still ongoing to resolve the issue.
Senator Azam Swati said the NTS chief Haroon Rashid had a fake degree and had been found guilty of plagiarism. He said he had removed Rashid from the Abbotabad campus of CIIT on charges of immoral activities.
“I removed him from the post of director of that campus when I was the federal minister, but he was later given a job in Islamabad,” he said, asking what action had been taken against Rashid.
CIIT Acting Rector Raheel Qamar said action was taken after the plagiarism charges were proved, but he had taken the issue to court. “He is now an absconder and is currently in the United States,” the rector said.
Rashid was among the founders and later chief executive officer of NTS but was removed from his position in 2016 after his PhD degree was revoked over his heavily plagiarised thesis paper.
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The chairperson also asked if the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was taking any action against Rashid. The FIA official replied he would update the committee about the case in the next meeting.
Minister of Science and Technology Yasmin Masood said they would restructure the NTS. She also suggested holding the next DAC at the ministry rather than the HEC. The proposal was accepted.
The PAC will now take up all the paras of the CIIT and the HEC in its next meeting on April 24.
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