APNS denies exerting pressure on government to clear dues -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

APNS denies exerting pressure on government to clear dues

KARACHI: The All Pakistan Newspapers Society has strongly rejected a news item that appeared in a section of the press maligning the APNS for exerting pressure on the federal government to clear the 10-year-old dues of advertising agencies.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the APNS stated that the news item that appeared in a group of newspapers was a part of malicious campaign against the APNS and intended to blackmail the advertising agencies.

The APNS explained that it has never exerted any undue pressure on any government department of functionaries to bypass their rules and procedures and/or extend any special favour to any stakeholder of the APNS. The APNS is duty bound to get the dues of its accredited advertising agencies cleared by the advertisers relating to their invoices for advertisements published in newspapers. In this respect, no discrimination is made between public or private sector advertisers and the APNS takes stern actions against the defaulters.

It may also be mentioned here that in the last three years, the APNS has suspended the advertising of various provincial governments, ministeries, departments and autonomous bodies on account of their default with the APNS accredited advertising agencies.

The APNS, highlighting the background of the matter under reference, stated that it had received claims from 24 advertising agencies against 39 federal ministries amounting to Rs 917,852,798/- for the outstanding bills relating to the period of eight years from July 01, 2000 to June 30, 2008 in September 2008 covering all their outstanding against these departments. In this respect, the APNS had suspended seven ministries in March 2009, which were restored on the assurance of the then federal minister for information. The Information Ministry subsequently took up the matter with the prime minister who kindly approved a special grant in April 2009 to clear these long outstanding dues against the federal government. However, due to procedural problems, the grant could not be utilised and a major part lapsed on June 30, 2009.

The APNS president and office bearers took up the issue again with the finance minister, information minister, the prime minister and the president of Pakistan that these dues have accumulated over a period of more than 10 years and the continued delay in recovery of this huge amount would threaten the survival of print media. The advertising agencies had already cleared the dues of member publications relating to the advertisements of federal government from their own sources. If the dues were not paid by the government, the agencies would collapse, resulting in a disaster for the newspaper industry.

In January 2010, the grant was restored consequent upon a meeting of the office bearers with the Information Ministry wherein it was decided that the ministry will verify the claims of the agencies with the departments concerned and make payment to the agencies directly.

However, the grant of the prime minister again expired on June 30, 2010. The matter was again taken up with the president of Pakistan and the prime minister. The grant approved twice could not be utilised due to procedural objections raised by the AGPR for submission of original invoices, release orders, and tear-sheets. The APNS and accredited agencies maintained that the original documents had already been submitted to the concerned client departments duly verified by the PID and misplaced by the departments and hence original documents could not be resubmitted. However, copies duly verified by the PID were available.

To resolve the deadlock, the prime minister formed a committee consisting of the principal secretary to the prime minister, the Secretary Information and the Secretary General, APNS. This committee decided that legitimate due to the agencies be paid after verification by the PID. Subsequently, the Federal Information Minister formed a two-member committee comprising president, the APNS and the Federal Secretary Information which decided that only those invoices of advertising agencies will be paid that are duly verified by the PID and are accompanied by copies of DROs issued by the PID and invoices of the advertising agencies.

The APNS categorically stated that the APNS in various meetings held during last three years with the Ministry of Information, the prime minister of Pakistan and Presidency had never insisted that the unverified and unsubstantiated claims of advertising agencies be paid. The APNS has always stated that only those claims be paid from the grant which are based on approved bills by the PID and the NOCs of client departments that these bills have not yet been paid. The APNS had always refrained from becoming a party in the verification process hence, the allegations levelled in the news item under reference that the APNS has been exerting pressures for payment of any unverified bills is baseless and totally incorrect.

It may be emphasised that although the grant approved by the prime minister amounted to Rs 46 crores, the bills that have been approved for payment only amount to Rs 35 crores and are substantiated by relevant documents, particularly the DROs (Department Release Orders) issued by the Press Information Department instructing the concerned advertising agencies to release government advertisements in newspapers and invoices of the advertising agencies specifying the complete details of such releases, including names of the newspapers, dates of insertions, rate, size and position of the advertisements printed and were duly verified by the Press Information Department.

The APNS rules clearly provide for safeguarding the interests of its member publications and accredited advertising agencies for ensuring that their outstanding amounts are cleared.

The delay in the payment to agencies by the advertisers whether private or government, increases the financial burden on our member publications. The APNS had rightly used its good offices to get a part payment of outstanding dues of agencies and reiterates that it would continue to vigorously pursue its obligations in clearance of the dues of member publications and accredited agencies in future as well.

Source: The News

Date:6/16/2011