LAHORE: The absence of a full-time operational head at the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) is inflicting heavy losses on the economy.
The DPP has been functioning without a regular permanent director general since 1998.
The DPP, under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR), deals with the Plant Quarantine Division, which regulates import, export of plants and its material and ensures phytosanitary mitigation treatments like fumigation, hot water treatment, cold treatment, irradiation and Pesticides Registration Division.
An official, on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the pesticide industry worth Rs60 billion was totally dependent upon the department. It also ensures that agricultural consignments of import and export are free from attack of insects and diseases.
Explaining the process for appointment, he said, “The DG of the department is picked through direct appointment in case of non-eligible officer or departmental promotions.”
The head is required to have a three-year experience in BPS19 and a PhD in addition to command over import and export research in diseases and insects.
In the past, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) allowed exports of 0.5 million tons of wheat to various countries. However, the consignments were rejected and declared unfit for eating by different countries due to the poor application of plant protection measures, the official informed. He said that a number of mango and chilli consignments aired for Europe and Australia were also rejected on the same grounds.
The official revealed that the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) advertised the vacant post in 2003 for initial appointment but there was no nomination. Since then, the post has been occupied through political appointees for the past 20 years.
In 2015, the Sindh High Court directed the Establishment Division and the relevant ministry to make a permanent appointment in accordance with the law. Following this direction, the FPSC again advertised for the post of director general. After scrutiny and on the basis of a written test, the FPSC called the short-listed candidates on March 7, 2017 for interview.
The official revealed that it declared and nominated one candidate on merit as director general, but despite that, the ministry and DPP delayed the notification. In the meantime, they moved an amendment in Rule 14, which entirely changed the recruitment process.
The change meant that in future the vacancy will be filled up on ‘Contract Basis’.
After receiving the nomination of the candidate from FPSC, the ministry requested the Sindh High Court to allow them to appoint the nominee as DG but also provided the same amendment to stop regular appointments. On the other hand, the secretary appointed Dr Waseemul Hassan as DG who is on deputation from the government of Balochistan for the last five years.
“I have been appointed on a stop-gap basis. As soon as the department gets a new director general I will have no hesitation in leaving this post,” Hassan told The Express Tribune.
He further said that he has 25 years of experience as a civil servant and knows everything about agriculture and holds a PhD. “In the absence of a regular DG, someone has to look on day-to-day matters,” he said. “Unfortunately, this important department didn’t have any competent officer to fill the post.
“Also, now the percentage of case violations on import of different food items have dropped to merely six cases, which last year were recorded at 22,000.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2018.