Search for competence

Published: January 17, 2020

The NAB’s often overzealous pursuit of suspects in graft cases is being blamed for the government’s failure to find a competent official to take charge of one of the country’s largest state-run utilities. SSGC has failed to find a suitable candidate to take charge as its MD, despite initially shortlisting nine people. This is apparently because top professionals are reluctant to apply to join public-sector companies for fear of frivolous NAB inquiries. The reports of reluctance to join SSGC come just a few weeks after the government ostensibly clipped NAB’s wings by reducing the scope of financial malpractices that the bureau could investigate. But despite criticism from some quarters that the government had made NAB toothless, the watchdog can still bite hard enough to scare off even decent folks. Maybe that is because four former SSGC MDs are facing inquiries.

Also, Adviser on Commerce Razak Dawood had some time back told the PM that the same fear of NAB was keeping the Commerce Division from convincing competent professionals to take over as chairperson of the State Life Insurance Corporation. In the case of SSGC, the shortlisted candidates, including the current acting MD of the company, were required to secure at least 75 points in the nomination committee’s assessment to get the job. However, according to reports, none of the candidates could even get 50 points. Even SNGPL struggled to find qualified candidates to fill the post of MD. After starting their hiring process at the same time last year as SSGC and using similar criteria, SNGPL’s board shortlisted 15 names. Only three of them cleared the evaluation. While SSGC will begin the hiring process anew, expecting a different result would be foolhardy, considering that any competent potential applicants would still have the same concerns that they did last year.

Professionals need to know that any bad business decisions will be treated as such. Good people are willing to take risks that may taint their resumes, but few will risk their personal reputations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2020.

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