The government on Friday decided to advertise again for hiring a consultant to expedite the process of auction of spectrums for third-generation (3G) telecom services in the country, a move which may further delay the auction process.
The decision to this effect was taken by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf while chairing a meeting here on the auction of 3G licences, which is expected to fetch about a billion dollars. The premier observed that the process had already been delayed considerably due to unnecessary official procedures, according to the Prime Minister’s House.
The government wanted to complete the transaction before the close of last fiscal year in June in a bid to restrict the widening budget deficit. However, differences over procedures and transparency concerns delayed the process.
The finance ministry has again projected revenues of Rs75 billion from the 3G auction in the current financial year.
The prime minister told the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to also seek a list of experts from the Ministry of Information Technology for evaluation of expressions of interest (EOI) to be received after the advertisement. The PTA assured the premier that a letter would be written to the IT ministry for the list of experts who would be made part of the EOI committee in order to meet transparency requirements.
The PTA’s credibility had been dealt a blow last year when it shortlisted consultants without taking stakeholders into confidence.
According to an official of the IT ministry, the consultant will also review the Information Memorandum – the document that governs the whole transaction. The consultant will have the liberty to rewrite the memorandum, he added.
The PM also made it clear that it was the PTA’s responsibility to carry out the auction of 3G licences in a transparent manner, according to the PM House.
An official of the PM House said at the start of the meeting the premier asked the stakeholders to find a way to complete the transaction and termed it a ‘lifeline for the government’. He also asked the IT and finance ministries as well as the PTA to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
The auction process had been put on the back burner when the Auction Supervisory Committee (ASC) of 3G rejected the PTA’s selected companies for consultancy services due to alleged dubious selection process.
The PTA had shortlisted four parties out of 12 and gave them grades instead of marks. Contrary to the ASC’s direction that an evaluation committee should be formed to shortlist the parties, the PTA itself shortlisted them.
On the PTA’s list, Kalba International Company was on top while the Ministry of Information Technology, which had also shortlisted five companies on the basis of marks, Kalba stood at fifth position.
Similarly, Arthur D Little stood on second position in the PTA’s list while the IT ministry placed it on top of its list.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.