In its fourth and apparently a last ditch effort to ensure auction of third generation (3-G) spectrum license during the tenure of the present government, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) would finalize new rules for hiring foreign consultants by January 25 in the face of severe criticism even from the state-run institutions that blame it for ‘unfair play’ and causing loss worth billions of rupees due to unnecessary delay in completing this much-awaited project, sources told “The News” here on Friday.
A senior official of PTA confided to this correspondent that new rules are being fine-tuned keeping in view the concerns raised by the Finance Ministry, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and some of its high officials who claimed that the top PTA administration deliberately ignored existing laws and awarded contracts to three foreign consultants in a dubious way.
The sources said when PTA cancelled the contracts of previously hired foreign consultants it also took back from them the cheques worth Rs10 million given as an initial payment against their services.
The official record showed that NAB in its letter sent to PTA on December 19 termed the hiring of foreign consultants a violation of PPRA Rules. In a similar letter written to the Cabinet Division on December 17 the PTA Member Finance also raised voice against alleged irregularities in this process.
Three consultants whose contracts have been cancelled in their letter also maintained that they had done nothing unlawful as they simply applied for the jobs advertised on the PTA’s website, had interviews and signed a contractual agreement to carry out the job.
Another official said there were rumours that these three consultants would file a case against PTA in International Court of Law but it never happened otherwise it might have created hurdles in already delayed project.
He said the country has already been deprived of Rs68 million revenue because of delay in the auction and if the process remained hurdle-free the government would be able to offer the auction to all five telecom operators – Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Zong and Warid.
The sources said PTA has not set any deadline for auction of 3-G spectrum and it would entirely depend upon the foreign consultants to be hired in the first week of next month that would provide much clearer picture about the market trends and better timing to carry out auction with an aim to generate maximum revenue.
Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) has maintained that despite passage of fourteen days the Privatisation Commission has failed to respond to its letter in which it requested to provide copies of Sale Purchase Agreement, the Shareholders Agreement (SHA) if any, and the revised agreement signed in 2006.
Chairman of National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology Chaudhry Barjees Tahir told “The News” that when they came to know about irregularities in hiring foreign consultants directives were issued to PTA not to make any payment to them otherwise it would be answerable for its act.
“We rightly took up the issue and raised our concerns about the hiring process that should have been transparent and in line with the existing rules and procedures. Now the contracts of foreign consultants have been cancelled and we hope that PTA would follow best practices and hire new consultants in transparent manner,” he said.
Talking to “The News” PTA Chairman Farooq Awan confirmed that new rules for hiring foreign consultants are being prepared and now the process would be transparent to the extent that no one would be able to level any unjustified allegation.
“New rules would be finalised in next fourteen days and process of hiring foreign consultants would be started to ensure auction of 3-G spectrum without any further delay. We have not set any deadline for completion of this auction and would take input from the consultants to carry out the process in a befitting manner,” he said.