President’s Secretary General Salman Farooqi’s has started attending 3G auction meetings despite not being a member of the committee, alarming stakeholders and raising doubts about transparency in the auction.
The Auction Supervisory Committee on 3G auctions was constituted to ensure transparency in auction of 3G spectrums and defunct Instaphone licence.
An official of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), who attended one of the meetings, said that there was an impression in the meeting that Farooqi was watching out for someone’s interest.
The Auction Supervisory Committee includes Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Water and Power Naveed Qamar and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain.
“The ASC meetings are not in my knowledge,” said finance ministry spokesperson Rana Assad Amin.
President’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar told The Express Tribune that Salman Farooqi was with the finance minister last week when PTA chairman came to discuss the 3G auction.
Babar in a text message after the telephonic conversation wrote “Salman Farooqi is not a member of the ASC on 3G and has not attended its meetings.”
The government is expecting to raise almost a billion dollars through the auctions to restrict the ever-widening budget deficit. The PTA has already postponed the auction scheduled for March 26 for Instaphone and March 29 for 3G after it failed to complete the requirements to ensure transparency.
State Bank of Pakistan and International Monetary Fund have already cautioned the government that it would not be able to complete the transaction during this financial year.
However, PTA yet again reiterated in the meeting last week that it would be able to complete the transaction by June.
There was no significant development in the meeting held last week, as PTA and Ministry of Information Technology failed to present new dates for the auction.
An IT expert, working with the government, said that it was high time to auction the 3G spectrum as there is strong possibility that the spectrum would become redundant next year. There is also a proposal to call an international expert on auction of 3G spectrums aimed at working out fresh mechanism to ensure transparency and get maximum returns.
The PTA’s stance to stretch the auction to June is contrary to Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani’s instructions who had directed the watchdog to complete the process before March.
The Finance Ministry is opposing the idea to stretch the process till June as it needs the finance to cut down the budget deficit. According to the information memorandum, the successful bidder will have to deposit half of the bid amount upfront while the remaining amount will be deposited within two months. Any amount coming after June 30 will have no impact on lowering the deficit as the next fiscal year will commence from July 1st.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.