Fake agents at SLIC removed, Dagha informs PAC

Commerce secretary says exports are expected to cross $25 billion in current year


Our Correspondent February 05, 2019
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was informed on Monday that fake agents at the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC), who were causing an annual loss of Rs4.8 billion to the national exchequer, had been removed.

“The organisational structure of SLIC is also being amended to resolve the issue once and for all,” said Federal Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha during a PAC session held to review the audit report 2011-12 of the Ministry of Commerce at the Parliament House.

The federal secretary also informed PAC that the privatisation process of SLIC, National Insurance Company Limited and Pakistan Reinsurance Company Limited had been deferred.

“In the current year, exports are expected to cross $25 billion, while the trade deficit will shrink by Rs4 billion to Rs5 billion,” said the commerce secretary.

PAC Chairman Shehbaz Sharif directed all ministries and divisions to regularly hold meetings of the subordinate committees.

At the start of the session, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials informed PAC that inquiry into allegations of corruption in Benazir Income Support Programme would soon be completed and a report would be presented before the administrative board for filing a reference.

Shehbaz inquired whether the NAB officer had the receipt of the record. The officer replied in the affirmative and acknowledged the efforts of the PAC chairman in this regard.

On SLIC's investment in Thatta Cement, the audit officials pointed out that the company had invested 17 per cent, instead of the permissible 5.0 per cent.

“Against the directions of the federal government, SLIC invested Rs138.3 million in Thatta Cement,” said the officials.

The commerce secretary replied that he knew about the mistake which was why shares of Thatta Cement were sold in time.

“Shares worth Rs130 million were sold for Rs260 million,” he added.

The audit officials said that it was the risk and not the profit which was the point of concern.

The committee members advised the commerce ministry to deposit the unused funds with the national exchequer.

The committee also directed the ministry to improve the structure of its internal control.

The commerce secretary assured the committee that the performance of SLIC would see a clear improvement within a year.

He also pointed out that SLIC had removed fake sale agents who used to take as much as Rs4.8 billion in annual commissions. “We have promoted all sales officers to the level of sales managers,” he added.

PTI MNA Malik Aamir Dogar said the SLIC workers’ union has been staging a strike.

Dagha replied that no one would be subjected to injustice, but the money would not be paid to fake sales agents.

“In the current year, we will cut down trade deficit by Rs4-5 billion,” he said, adding that expenditure on oil imports had also been reduced.

Expressing hope that the current year's exports would surpass $25 billion mark, he said, “The country is seeing the textile sector being revitalised while exports of sugar and wheat are also improving. In addition, international demand for Pakistani mangoes and oranges is increasing.”

The secretary also briefed the committee over the performance of commercial councilors at Pakistani missions.

“As per a 2016 policy, commercial councilors are being appointed by the selection boards after tests at LUMS. As per the new policy, commercial councilors may be called back over poor performance even before completion of their tenure,” said Dagha. “There is a proper system for performance assessment of commercial councilors, including weightage given to the opinion of the ambassador.”

The secretary said trade officers had been playing a key role in improving trade relations with China and some other countries.

“We are also considering appointing overseas Pakistanis residing in these countries as trade officers,” Dagha added.

The PAC members supported the appointment of Pakistani-origin people as trade officers, but PML-N MNA Khawaja Asif said lack of command over local languages acted as a stumbling block for the trade officers.

The PAC chairman referred the case of irregularities amounting to Rs50 million in the audit report of the commerce ministry to a sub-committee headed by Shahida Akhtar Ali.

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