Ministries warned against violating government’s ads policy
By: Mehtab Haider
ISLAMABAD: The government has warned the officials concerned of all the ministries, divisions and departments for initiating criminal prosecution through National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) if they do not implement the centralised advertisement policy for print and electronic media in letter and spirit.
An official letter written by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to all the concerned, a copy of which is available with ‘The News’, states that “the expenditure incurred on direct release of advertisements (print and electronic) without concurrence of this Ministry/Press Information Department (PID) falls under the category of irregular expenditure which is recoverable from the officials concerned through appropriate action including criminal prosecution through FIA/NAB”.
The official letter also states: “It is therefore, requested that all the officials dealing with advertisements may be sensitised on this centralised advertisement policy and advised to follow them in letter and spirit and refrain from releasing of the advertisements to media directly.”
In earlier official communications, the Ministry of Information informed all the ministries/divisions that under Rules of Business 1973, the control and placement of all the government advertisements has been assigned to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. However, instances have come to the notice of this ministry that some ministries/divisions/departments/corporations/autonomous bodies/ pubic sector organisations etc under the federal government are violating the advertisement policy. The official letter also states that the ministries not only release advertisements directly to the media but also decide the media plan at their own and resist to changes made by this ministry or PID. This practice, according to official letter, scuttles the efforts of this ministry to ensure effective projection of the federal government.
According to the letter, the prime minister has taken cognisance of this departure from the prescribed procedure regarding release of advertisements and directed this ministry to ensure implementation of the advertisement policy in letter and spirit.
When contacted, Secretary Ministry of Information Ch Rashid Ahmad said that there was no political motive behind putting in place the centralised advertisement policy. Under the government rules, he said, it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Information to give advertisements to both the print and electronic media.
When asked about the timing of placing this new mechanism just before upcoming elections, he said when he was serving as Principal Information Officer (PIO) in 2008 he had made efforts to introduce this policy but he was opposed by the influential and subsequently he was made OSD. He said that if any ministry or department incurred expenditure in violation of rules, criminal proceedings against him or her could commence in accordance with the law of the land.
Citing an example, he said that he was asked to grant exemption but he had refused to do it and advised the officials concerned to move a summary to PM for getting exemption from implementing this policy.
He also said that there were apprehensions that the centralised policy would result into depriving major newspapers of getting their due share but he posed a question how the government would afford to ignore major newspapers or electronic media at the cost of conveying its message in an effective manner. He said that the advertising agencies were opposing the centralised advertisement policy tooth and nail but this policy would bring more transparency in the whole mechanism.
He said that Punjab’s advertisement share was more than the center in the aftermath of 7th NFC Award because financial share of provinces increased manifold and it was more centralised but no one objected to it.