LAHORE: A jurisdictional dispute has erupted between the deputy commissioner and Punjab Food Authority (PFA) over checking of food businesses in Punjab. According to the law approved by the Punjab Assembly, food quality control and related actions have been completely within the domain of the PFA since August 2017, but officials in some districts are still checking food business in different ways taking action against them.
PFA Director General Usman Younis has sent a letter to the top provincial officials calling for them to stop district administration interference in PFA’s domain. The PFA chief has also rejected the demand of some assembly members to allow PFA staff to participate in kacheris, clarifying that the PFA’s staff only enforces the rules regarding malpractices relating to food. He argued that summoning the staff in open kacheris and reprimanding them without any knowledge of the ground facts would be demoralising.
The PFA was formed through an act of the Punjab Assembly in 2011 and immediately started work in limited areas. On August 14, 2017, the provincial government notified the extension of the domain of the PFA to all the 36 districts of the province and cancelled the older Pure Food Act.
It also abolished the food checking authority of health and food inspectors and other district administration officials. It was then clarified that the authority to check food businesses, issue food-related license, take samples, check cleanliness, quality control, sealing locations, filing cases, and imposing fines will rest with the PFA's staff.
In this regard, the Punjab government had issued written directives to all the commissioners and deputy commissioners. It has been learnt that the deputy commissioners in certain districts are still using health inspectors to check restaurants, which is a violation of the PFA law and is causing problems for PFA staffers in some areas.
According to sources, a serious incident occurred a few days back in Sahiwal, when top district officials assigned district health inspectors to investigate different food businesses and issue show cause notices. Business circles complained about it to the PFA.
According to sources, PFA DG Younis sent a letter to top provincial officials in which he stated that the PFA's domain was being encroached upon, listing several other incidents as well. He asked for clear directives to be given to all district administrations to avoid illegal interference in the PFA’s domain.
According to sources, certain deputy commissioners have made this an issue of pride and attempts are being made via anti-corruption bodies to pressurise the local staff of the food authority.