Finance Ministry cautions Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 3G auction
By: Usman Manzoor
Islamabad: The Finance Ministry has also barred Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) from violating Public Procurement Rules in hiring consultants for auction of one to two billion dollars 3G Spectrum clearly mentioning that “no deviation from the rules may be allowed or tolerated under any circumstances”, documents reveal.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already declared the hiring of consultants by PTA in violation of PPRA Rules in its letter issued on December 19, 2012. While on the other hand, PTA’s member finance has also sent a letter to the secretary Cabinet Division on December 17, 2012 citing all the irregularities in hiring of consultants by the PTA chairman.
Foul play was shouted by directors and members of PTA when the PTA chairman hired consultant for 3G Spectrum auction for $700,000. The two directors of the PTA even refused to become a part of what they said non-transparent multi-billion dollar 3G Spectrum auction process at the highest policymaking forum, a meeting at the PM House chaired by the prime minister himself. Two of the three members of the PTA — Member Technical Dr Khawar Siddique Khokhar and Member Finance Nasrul Karim Ghaznavi — were pressurised and even scolded by the meeting participants but both of them flatly refused to be part of any such deal that lacks transparency and violates the law and rules. Latter, it was decided that Transparency International would be asked to monitor the process.
Of late, the Finance Division CF Wing, on December 20, 2012 wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretariat saying, “Refer to Cabinet Secretariat u o. note No. 2/3/2310-RA.I/FAB, dated 17th December, 2012 on the above subject (Auction of 3G Spectrum licence) it is stated that PTA may carry out the hiring process of consultant of international repute as per provisions of PPRA Rules 2004. No deviation from the rules may be allowed or tolerated under any circumstances. It is further proposed that Cabinet Division may refer the case to Procurement Regulatory Authority for its views on the subject reference from member technical and the response of chairman PTA thereon as also advised by NAB. In case the authority decides that the subject hiring is in violation of PPRA provisions, PTA may take necessary action accordingly.”
While NAB’s letter sent to the secretary Ministry of Information Technology and chairman PTA clearly mentions, “The hiring of consultants for 3G/4G Spectrum was found in violation of PPRA Procurement of Consultancy Services Regulations 2010 promulgated under SRO 1077 (1) 2010 under section 27 of PPR Ordinance 2002 as was discussed in the meeting held on above referred date. The PTA is hereby advised to ensure adherence to PPRA Rules and confirmation be made to NAB within seven days of receipt of this letter i.e. 26, December 2012.”
Member Finance PTA Nasrul Karim Ghaznavi on December 17, 2012 wrote to the cabinet secretary that members of the PTA were neither associated nor informed about the hiring of advisors/consultants. “It has now been informed that advisers have been hired by the chairman based on para 115 of the PTA Service Regulations 200g. This is not understood as to why the hiring has been done based on service regulations of employees whereas the adviser and consultant could be hired under the PTA Act 1996. For the hiring of consultant your attention is invited to para 4(1) (c) of the policy directive No. 2-2/2007-Dir (w) dated December 9, 2011 which envisage that the authority is to hire consultants of ‘international repute’. This directive read with section 5(2)(r) pr Act 1996 would reveal that only authority could hire the consultant and that too under the provision of the act.” He further discussed, at length, the problems in hiring of the consultants.
Reportedly, the recent controversial appointment of chairman PTA, the removal of CEO of the extremely wealthy Universal Service Fund (USF) and his replacement by the son of a close confidante of the top-most rulers and the appointment of member law in the Ministry of Information Technology, all these administrative changes make the auction of 3G Spectrum extremely controversial in the present scenario. The validity of the appointments of Chairman PTA Farooq Ahmad Awan and the removal of CEO USF Ashar Siddiqui are already under scrutiny of the superior judiciary. The expected $1-2 billion money to be fetched from the 3G auction may go to the USF whose present chief executive officer is Dr Basit Sheikh, who is the son of Riaz Ahmad Shaikh — the man removed from the position of additional DG FIA and convicted by the Supreme Court in the NRO case. Dr Basit is also an adviser to the Ministry of IT.