ISLAMABAD: After remaining dormant for one and a half years, the $225-million National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) Company has started off on a wrong footing, which could undermine the cause of setting a global standard body to tackle challenges posed by sudden climate change.
Initial decisions taken by the company’s management have put it on a collision course with its powerful board that comprises federal secretaries and is headed by Finance Secretary Arif Ahmad, said officials in the finance ministry.
This also brings into question the effective utilisation of the disaster management fund that has been established with $200-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), they added.
Over a period, the fund’s size is expected to grow to $1.2 billion and the ADB’s contribution will be in the range of $750 million to $1 billion, said the officials. The government’s share will be $250 million.
The newly appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of the NDRMF Company has bypassed the board in the recruitment process, the officials said.
Even the CEO’s appointment was the result of hectic lobbying as there were resentments over the appointment of Lt Gen (Retired) Nadeem Ahmad, aged 67.
The Economic Affairs Division had proposed the names of Nadeem Ahmad, Maj Gen (Retired) Zahir Shah and Dr Munawar Alam to the federal cabinet for approval. Some cabinet members expressed apprehensions. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi finally approved the name of Ahmad, but appointed him for two years only instead of the standard three-year term.
The NDRMF board had allowed the new CEO to hire 31 people to begin operations of the fund. However, the CEO advertised for 56 posts, said the officials.
Climate Change Secretary Khizar Hayat Khan, who is a board member, confirmed to The Express Tribune that the CEO undermined the board’s sanctity by giving advertisement for 56 posts. “I pointed this out in the board meeting,” said the secretary.
Since the CEO had advertised for 56 positions, the board had to give ex-post facto approval, he added.
The company’s CEO and finance secretary did not give versions for the story. The ADB’s response was also awaited.
The CEO wants to hire security officers of the ranks of colonel and major for a small organisation whose job is to ensure disaster mitigation.
Sources said there was also an issue over the authority to hire people as the CEO was not ready to involve a three-member human resource committee in hiring the staff.
But people close to the CEO said according to the aide memoire between Pakistan and the ADB, and decision of the fifth board meeting, the board’s authority to hire people is only limited to the recruitment of company secretary, chief financial officer, accounts specialist and internal auditor.
The authority to fill all other posts rests with the CEO. They said Rule 13 of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also limits the board’s powers to only filling these four posts.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had banned the recruitment process with effect from April 1, 2018. Citing emergency reasons, the company obtained no-objection certificate from the ECP before giving the advertisement in May.
The purpose of establishing the NDRMF is to reduce socio-economic and fiscal vulnerability of the country and its population to natural hazards by prioritising and financing investments in disaster risk reduction and preparedness that have high economic benefits, taking into account climate change as well as disaster risks and their impact.
The ADB had approved the $200-million loan in 2016, but the company remained dormant for about one and a half year.
The government has passed on the ADB loan to the NDRMF as a grant for onward payment to eligible implementing partners. The NDRMF will finance up to 70% of the cost of eligible sub-projects that will enhance Pakistan’s resilience to extreme weather events and other natural hazards, according to the NDRMF’s objectives.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2018.