The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered placing the name of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman and two of his aides on the exit control list.
The PAC has also ordered a fact-finding inquiry to determine whether the decisions taken by the three caused losses worth billons of rupees to the exchequer.
The most serious allegation against PTA Chairman Mohammad Yaseen is that one of his controversial decisions led to a five-time increase in illegal international calls, known as gray trafficking, which caused Rs23 billion in annual loss. The other allegation levelled against him was allowing change of management to a defaulted company causing losses worth Rs413 million to the government.
The alleged malpractices surfaced after one of the three – who are members of the board of directors (BoDs) of the PTA – wrote a letter to the cabinet division in April 2011. However, since then no decisive action had been taken by any competent authority. On Thursday, the PAC ordered the interior ministry to place the names of all three members of the BoDs for the time being.
“According to my credible information, the malpractice was going and everyone was involved including the whistleblower. They maintained criminal silence until they had a dispute in a matter and a member decided to disclose the malpractices of the chairman,” said PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan.
Subsequently, the PAC directed the cabinet division to complete the initial fact-finding inquiry within seven days. The PAC also directed the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) to complete an inquiry in this case within one month. “The cabinet division had marked the inquiry to the FPSC but so far no action has been taken,” said Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Shahidullah Beg.
“PTA’s chairman was going to retire in a fortnight’s time since he possesses Australian nationality and my apprehension was that he would flee the country,” said Chan while explaining why Yaseen was placed on the ECL.
“The extent of the pressure can be gauged from the fact that even after 15 months of writing the letter no action has been taken against the chairman,” said PAC member Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
While reading the contents of a letter written by the whistleblower, PAC member Khawaja Mohammad Asif said that the most serious allegation against the chairman was the increase in gray trafficking from one billion minutes of international calls illegally terminating in Pakistan to 6 billion minutes.
According to the letter made available to The Express Tribune, PTA’s chairman increased the call settlement rates in connivance with the Commercial Affairs’ director general without any written approval by the authority. Against a demand of reducing rates to $0.75, Yaseen increased the rates from $0.10 per minute to $0.12 per minute, “unleashing flood gates of gray trafficking”. The letter assessed the losses on this account up to $240 million annually (Rs23 billion).
“You are a watchdog but according to this letter you are involved in highway robbery,” said an irritated Asif.
Responding to the allegations levelled against him, Yaseen said: “Whatever decisions I took, were made in interest of the country and I will face all the accusations”.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2012.