Another NICL-like scam in the makin

ISLAMABAD: The Government on Monday clarified a news story regarding alleged misappropriation and violation of process in the Telecom Foundation (TF), which is associated with the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT).

A PID press release said: “MoIT considers all allegations fabricated and devoid of any real substance. To link the case of Telecom Foundation to NICL scam is preposterous and the figures quoted in the item are only meant for sensationalism.

It is to be clarified that Telecom Foundation is a welfare organization registered under Charitable Endowment Act, 1890. The organization is governed by a Board of Governors on the pattern of many other similar organisations. The Foundation operates with the revenue generated by commercial companies operating under its auspices and has been totally self-sustained ever since its inception. No Government funding has ever been injected into the Foundation. It is pertinent to mention that neither any assets of the Foundation have been disposed of nor any assets acquired during the period referred to in the item.

The statement of the news item regarding the total assets of the Foundation as Rs100 billion, is false and exaggerated by about 100 times. It is legally bound to have regular valuation done annually as a part of budget and audit processes and as per the updated balance sheet, total current assets of TF are Rs1.121 billion.

With regard to the allegation that any political influence is involved in appointment of the incumbent MD of the Foundation in MP-II scale by the PM, it has to be clarified that, the Board of Governors (BoGs) of the Foundation is the competent forum for appointment of the MD. Mr Gul Bahdur was accordingly appointed by the BoGs after a competitive process in February 2009. Neither is he an MP scale official nor was the office of the PM ever involved in this appointment as the decision was duly taken by the BoGs.

Regarding alleged conviction and bargain of the incumbent MD, it has to be clarified that the issue pertains to year 2000, when the incumbent was a General Manger in PTCL and the case was duly settled by NAB and decision conveyed vide letter No.22/1/1M-3/NAB dated 30 October 2000 wherein it was clearly mentioned that “after acceptance of voluntary return by the NAB, the officials are deemed NOT to have been convicted of the charge”.

According to NAB ordinance 1999, this type of case is governed by section 25 (subsection a) and the position regarding the deemed convictions etc was clarified by both the NAB and the Ministry of Law and Justice references to MoIT. Thereafter the current MD of TF completed his service in PTCL and honourably superannuated in 2008. He was therefore legally qualified to hold the office of the MD TF when appointed by the BoGs.

As far as the allegation of obliging MoIT officials with perks etc is concerned, it has to be pointed out that TF had provided two vehicles to the secretary IT and Addl. Secretary IT in their capacity of Chairman and Vice Chairmen TF BoGs respectively. This is an arrangement duly and fully authorized by the TF BoGs being the competent forum.

Similarly the position taken by the news item regarding inappropriate appointments is also not true and in proper context.

As per TF Policy the services of retired PTCL officers are hired and the same applies to the couple of cases pointed out in the article. Especially in the case of Mr Zerullah Khan the services were retained beyond qualified time in the best interest of the organization and to complete ongoing critical project. His tenure is now going to expire on 24 June 2011. Similarly the services of all other officers mentioned in the item were duly acquired through a regular process according to the Rules of the foundation and their qualifications at the time of hiring were strictly in accordance to the advertised recruitments.

The News staffar Adds: The government clarification issued by the PID in response to The News story did not deny any fact narrated in the story and instead tried to mislead the readers by twisting the facts. As far as the appointment of Gul Bahadar Yousafzai as MD Telecom Foundation is concerned The News did not write any single word on its own and simply quoted official letters including the one issued by the Law Ministry clearly opining that any person who indulged in corruption and had taken benefit of voluntary refund of money pleads guilty and thus cannot hold any public office.

The same Law Ministry letter is not even discussed in the clarification. The PID statement clearly admitted involvement of Yousafzai in a corruption case and then getting rid of NAB’s further proceedings after returning the looted money. A wrong impression has been created and that too through a PID press release as if the board of TF is completely independent without mentioning that TF board is under administrative control of the federal ministry.

It has also not been clarified that why a person facing heinous corruption charges was made chief of such an important organization. Using of foundations vehicles is admitted shamelessly but wrong figure of 2 vehicles is given whereas the TF officials have shown to The News record where more than 10 vehicles remain in use of ministry officials time and again and fuel expense is also paid by the drowning foundation.

While admitting the use of vehicles in a shameless way the admission of taking monthly fuel expense and other benefits is not mentioned which was given in The News story.

The Press Release also tried to befool readers on count of total assets as The News gave approximate total value of all the assets of TF and all its subsidiaries. With regard to statement that government never gave anything to the TF, following is detail of some properties allotted by the federal government to TF in last few years. The market value of these prime properties situated in Islamabad can be calculated by the readers themselves however according to The News estimates value of only these properties in possession of TF exceeds Rs30 billion:

Plot on backside of PM Secretariat, about 15 kanal, – Plot measuring 3.5 acres near Al-Shifa Hospital in Sector H-8, – A plot measuring 3.5 acres in G-9/4, – 3 plots in sector I-9 (Measurement 3.5 to 4 acres).

The clarification did not give any reference to the fake degrees of its officials and deteriorating situation of the organizations’ finances.

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