ISLAMABAD: A panel of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday questioned the appointment of Asad Khan as the managing director of National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), a state-owned engineering consultancy firm, and also observed that the MD had irregularly promoted personnel in the organisation in violation of laid down procedures. Committee members also took exception to Khan’s attempts to influence them through various channels.
The PAC subcommittee, however, reserved its verdict on the illegal appointment of the MD and out-of-turn promotions in Nespak, while seeking greater help from authorities to ascertain more facts regarding the issue.
Asad Khan was appointed Nespak MD in April 2008 by then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, on the recommendation of then water and power minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Khan has already managed to secure an extension in his tenure.
The issue of the allegedly illegal appointment and promotions has surfaced at a time when the Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken up a case regarding the appointment of Tauqeer Sadiq, the former chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.
The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) had objected to the appointment of Khan, and had raised the issue with Gilani in 2010. The PEC had been against the appointment as Asad Khan is an architect by profession, and does not have a strong engineering background.
PAC member Sardar Ayaz Sadiq revealed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was holding an inquiry into the appointment of the MD. The subcommittee also decided to seek legal opinion from Supreme Court Bar Association President Yaseen Azad, on whether an architect can be appointed as the head of an engineering body.
The PAC panel – headed by Yasmeen Rehman – also hinted at revoking all benefits enjoyed by those who were promoted out of turn by Khan. The illegal appointments will land all concerned persons in trouble, the PAC subcommittee chairperson said.
Any adverse decision is likely to open a can of worms, as an official of the Ministry of Water and Power – the parent ministry of Nespak – conceded that the MD had used the powers of the ministry secretary while short-listing aspirants for the posts of the vice presidents of Nespak.
The MD allegedly promoted his favoured personnel through a board of management (BoM) constituted by him. He confessed that the BoM had no legal status per se, as every successive MD reconstituted the BoM according to his will.
The subcommittee then sought details on BoM constitution, BoM rules for promotion, and the criteria employed in promoting people to the posts of the vice presidents. The panel decided to summon NAB officials and the secretaries of concerned ministries to decide on the matter.
In his defence, Khan claimed that the appointment of the vice presidents was at the discretion of the MD. He further said that that the assertion that his appointment was illegal did not hold ground as he had been appointed by the prime minister himself.
In reply, the committee observed that according to the rules, the vice presidents can only be appointed after consultation with the secretary and the minister of water and power. The representative of the water and power ministry also endorsed the committee’s view that the MD cannot constitute a board to get people appointed according to his own will.
An audit official told the PAC panel that instances of irregular promotion in Nespak had been brought to its notice. In response, the panel sought an explanation from the audit department why it had overlooked such glaring irregularities.
Statistics tabled in front of the panel also revealed loose financial control in Nespak. According to the audit official, the total income of Nespak was Rs3.4 billion in 2007-08, against Rs2.5 billion general expenses, which were 73% of income. Expenses subsequently increased to 75% and 80% of the income in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively, according to the figures provided.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2012.
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