Monday, December 10, 2012- Islamabad is facing uncertainties because of a controversial rumor of a major Pakistan Telecommunication Authority member’s enquiries regarding the legitimacy of consultants hired by PTA for well publicized prospect 3G spectrum, most probably to gain a couple of billion dollars. In his letter, directed to the key members of PTA, Government and IT sector, Dr. Khawar Siddique Khokhar exposed a serious violation of the PPRA rules regarding the hiring and huge salaries of the consultants and violation of PPRA rules, 2004.
Chairman PTA Farooq Awan on 20 November 2012 explained to media that the hiring of three consultants was aimed to set up and processing of software for the purpose of transparency, but the hiring itself was against the transparency following illegal procedure. According to Mr. Khokhar, considering the PTA act 1996, such type of contracts should be the liability of the Authority, but he himself heard this news through media. Chairman of PTA did not consult or involve any other Authority member; and without financial agreement of Finance members, decided on his own, hired and signed the consultants on a noticeably high remuneration.
On the contrary, The PTA chairman Farooq Awan, when asked, explained that the issue of appointments of consultants for 3G auction is actually not completely understood by the other party about the actuality. He further added that the chairman is the most authoritative person to appoint advisers or consultants with no need to consult the authority. Moreover, he claimed that these appointments do not violate PPRA rules and he would shortly take action in response to the letter of member technical with guaranteed and truthful follow up of the procedure.
The letter illustrates that members of authority and Member Finance were excluded while making this decision and sources claim that signing of such agreements come under the responsibility of Authority under specific sections of the act. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts of PTA to employ a 3G consultant, they placed an advertisement on 6th November 2012 for four vacancies of foreign experienced consultants with given time of seven days only, although the Rule 13 of PPRA 2004 emphasizes that this time should not be less than 30 days for international spirited bidding from the date of advertisement published. PTA provided only seven days for the process and then publicizes selection of the three consultants on 20 November 2012.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who is an additional in charge for IT has compromised an Auction Supervisory Committee, headed by Dr. Abdul Hafeez, Finance minister, which finally approved the hiring of consultants. But another committee consisting of nine members from PTA had collectively declared the consulting companies ineligible.
Now the sources quote that there were only three companies who applied and later announced ineligible because of a badly chosen qualifying criteria while showing no consideration to the involvement of committee members. Evidence of ambiguity and dishonesty in such important public contracts has been mentioned by the Transparency International as a key reason resulting in less foreign investment in Pakistan.