Reacting to reports of violation of set procedures and hiring of experts at an exorbitant fee, the government has cancelled contracts of foreign consultants, who were selected for preparing a roadmap and monitoring auction of 3G spectrum licences.
“The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has cancelled contracts of three consultants,” said Information Technology Secretary Aamir Tariq Zaman Khan while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology here on Monday.
Khan said the decision was taken following objections raised by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over the award of contracts. The contracts were cancelled on December 21.
This is likely to further delay the auction of 3G licences, expected to fetch around a billion dollars.
The IT Secretary told the committee that the PTA chairman had taken the decision to hire the three consultants.
In the previous meeting of the committee, PTA Chairman Farooq Ahmed Awan had referred to Sections 3(8) and 10(2)(c) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act 1996 and Regulation 115 of the PTA Employees Service Regulation 2008, which, according to him, said “the chairman is empowered enough to hire consultants.”
The IT Secretary had also endorsed Awan’s view that the chairman had powers to hire a consultant for a specific time period without consulting other members of the authority.
“We have pointed out several times that PTA is violating rules in appointment of foreign consultants for the 3G auction and it has been proved today,” said Committee Chairman Barjees Tahir.
He held the PTA chairman responsible for the loss to the national exchequer as foreign consultants were hired at a cost of Rs50 million and Rs10 million had already been paid to them.
However, PTA Director General Sajjad Latif Awan told the committee that the PTA chairman had hired the consultants on the instruction of Auction Supervisory Committee (ASC) and rules were properly followed. The consultants did not want to work because of the objections raised, he added.
Members of the committee stressed that any payments made to the consultants should be recovered from the PTA chairman.
Shafqat Hayat Khan of PML-N said for the third time 3G auction had been delayed, which would earn a bad name to the country as no one, in future, would be interested in the auction process.
The committee members were also annoyed with PTA over its inaction against grey traffic, which is causing a loss of $1 billion per annum.
Barjees Tahir was of the view that PTA was reluctant to take action against influential people. The IT secretary also admitted that PTA’s initiatives to control grey traffic were not sufficient as the authority could only monitor 13% of the traffic.
PML-N’s Anusha Rehman pointed a finger at the rulers, saying people involved in grey traffic were sitting in the power corridors and government departments were facilitating them.
The committee also expressed its dissatisfaction over the performance of Universal Services Fund (USF) as billions of rupees could not be recovered from defaulting companies. It told the IT ministry that it may blacklist all the defaulting companies and take stern action against them in order to recover the unpaid amount.
The panel further said the ministry may direct PTCL authorities to increase pension of its retired employees in accordance with Supreme Court’s decision and report back in the next meeting.
With additional input from APP
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2013.
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