ISLAMABAD: The board of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) has decided to outsource recovery of Rs3 billion of its receivables and pay 25% of the amount in reward.
In a meeting held in November last year, the board also approved Leave Preparatory to Retirement for its employees in a bid to send employees home before the superannuation age due to weakening financial health of the government entity.
PTV is run by charging a fee of Rs35 per month from the electricity consumers, which provides it nearly Rs8.5 billion in annual funding. The board took the decision to “hire three recovery agencies/investigating agencies to locate assets of defaulter agencies of PTV,” according to minutes of the board meeting finalised this month.
These agencies will be offered 25% of the recovered amount from the defaulters, according to the decision. The minutes are silent on the issue of whether the recovery agents would be hired to recover the amount from the private sector or they will also be engaged to make recoveries from the government departments – the biggest defaulters.
The decision appears surprising as most of the dues are against the Power Division and K-Electric on account of television fee being charged from the electricity consumers through monthly bills.
PTV Managing Director Aamer Manzoor did not reply to the question about laws and regulations that authorise a government entity to hire a third party and give it one-fourth of the recovered amount.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan was also not available for comments.
The handling of the PTV affairs has remained a controversial issue for the past one year that led to a change in the portfolio of one federal minister. Although the government has hired a new managing director, he has not been fully empowered to take decisions, according to sources. The PTV board went ahead with the decision to engage a third party despite questions over the disputed amount.
The PTV management has shown Rs3 billion in receivables in the accounts whereas these are not clear receivables, according to minutes of the meeting.
These receivables are mainly on account of collection of television fee through electricity bills and dues on account of advertisements. Initially, PTV was paying a collection charge of Rs5 per bill to the power distribution companies, which the government subsequently reduced to Re1.
However, some companies were still charging Rs5 and Rs350 million was outstanding against K-Electric alone. The disclosure comes amid reports that the government is considering increasing PTV fee from Rs35 to Rs100 to meet its pension liabilities.
Despite the corporation’s weak financial health, the PTV management has taken certain decisions that are contrary to prudent fiscal management. It has hired certain people at hefty packages and has also re-employed the finance director after his retirement despite opposition by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, according to the sources.
The PTV also hired Career Pakistan as a head-hunting firm to recruit the chief financial officer, chief digital officer, chief technology officer, chief human resources officer and chief news and current affairs. This job could have been performed without involvement of private parties.
The board also approved the hiring of a security firm for the protection of PTV premises, which was already well-guarded, showed minutes of the meeting.
The PTV management has also not been able to finalise financial accounts of fiscal year 2018-19 that ended in June last year. Financial accounts of fiscal year 2017-18 were finalised only in November 2019, almost one and a half year after close of the fiscal year.
During fiscal year 2017-18, PTV sustained an operating loss of Rs266 million, according to the minutes. However, the auditors have made two serious observations, which have not yet been addressed and indicate that the loss will be high.
The auditors have observed two qualifications in the accounts of 2017-18. In the first qualification, the auditors have stated that PTV has not prepared consolidated accounts together with the accounts of its subsidiary company, Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Corporation (SRBC).
The PTV board had certain objections to the SRBC accounts, therefore, it did not make these accounts part of the consolidated statement. The auditors have also placed observation on the PTV pension fund liability, which has increased to Rs14 billion, according to minutes of the board proceedings.
The PTV management has registered the pension fund and needs Rs2 billion per annum to invest in the fund to enable the management to pay off pension liabilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2020.