Two IT organisations on verge of collapse
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: The two organisations responsible for promotion of information and communications technology related research and technology (R&D), capacity building and innovation have been virtually paralysed because of mismanagement by the Ministry of Information Technology and inaction of the prime minister’s office, Dawn has learnt.
Latif Khosa, who was minister-in-charge for some time, has alleged massive corruption in the ministry. A response to the allegations has been sent to the prime minister, but neither he nor the IT secretary has taken any decision to save the companies.
“The Universal Fund and National ICT R&D Fund will close down in weeks if the prime minister does not intervene to save it,” said a senior ministry official. According to him, the ICT R&D has been without a CEO since June this year.
“The company’s secretary is non-functional, salary of employees has not been paid since May and administrative functions are coming to a halt,” the official said.
He said that work on about 35 R&D projects of Rs500 million might be stopped in a couple of weeks because of non-payment. About 550 researchers and professionals associated with the projects may lose their jobs.
The future of about 1,300 rural students in universities across the country on scholarship provided by the National ICT R&D Fund is also at stake.
“Around Rs1.4 billion of investment on these students will go down the drain. The fate of another 500 rural students to be inducted this year with an investment of Rs530 million is also at stake,” the official said.
Under licence rules, telecom companies deposit 1.5 per cent of their revenue in the Universal Service Fund and 0.5 per cent in ICT R&D Fund each year. The amount stands at Rs5-6 billion.
About Rs27 billion is lying with the ICT R&D and USF. “Once these companies are closed, it will be easy for corrupt politicians and government officials to divert the funds to some other purposes. Some telecom companies are reportedly backing this idea because it will relieve them of billions of rupees they are contributing to these funds,” the official said.
USF CEO Pervez Ifikhar agrees that the two companies are in trouble.
But IT Secretary Najeebullah Malik disagrees. He said: “The organisations cannot be closed down because they are run on contributions from telecom companies.”
Mr Malik informed the National Assembly’s standing committee on information technology on Thursday: “Latif Khosa’s allegations of corruption are unsubstantiated.” He said he was not responsible for misappropriations and wrongdoings of the past.
The committee came down hard on officials of the ministry and urged the prime minister to save the ministry from disintegrating. The committee’s chairman, Mohammad Barjees Tahir, directed the ministry to pay the salary of its employees before Eid.