Toeing the line: PU set to give three employees permanent jobs in violation of rules

LAHORE: Punjab University’s administration is set to give permanent jobs to three people employed on contractual basis in violation of various rules and regulations. The letter announcing the vacancies was not circulated in newspapers in violation of rules.

PU Registrar Dr Liaqat Ali wrote to the deans of faculties, directors of institutes and centres, and heads of departments on January 2, informing them about vacancies to which university employees would be appointed.

However, according to the University Calendar, all posts above BS-16 should be advertised in papers and recruitments should be made on merit.

The letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, states: The following posts are lying vacant in various departments in the University of the Punjab, Lahore. They will be filled by employees working at the university who fulfil the requirements.

The vacancies, in BS-17, include posts of a manager, a public relations officer (PRO) and a senior land officer (SLO).

A university official familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune that an employee, currently working as the PRO on a contract, is set to be made permanent even though there is a sexual harassment complaint pending against him and his brother is employed in the same office in violation of rules.

The university administration is looking to make his job permanent, he said.

The PU official said the permanent post of SLO is expected to go to an employee, who is a retired official of the Fisheries Department and is currently an SLO on contract.

He said the employee being considered for the permanent post of manager is going to go to a contractual employee who has been handling the vice chancellor’s events hosted at the Executive Club.

The official said candidates for the posts of manager and PRO are required to have a master’s in second division. “No qualification has been laid out for the post of SLO, since the employee who is expected to get the position is 50 years old and graduated in third division.”

He said a notification announcing their recruitment was expected to be issued this week. The last date for candidates to file papers for the posts was January 15.

“The administration has verbally told other candidates not to appear for interviews,” another PU official said.

PU Registrar Dr Liaquat Ali admitted that the letter was circulated among the university faculty and employees only. He said he was not aware of the rule requiring the posts to be advertised in newspapers. “I don’t know for sure that it is a violation of rules. I can only comment once I have gone through the rules,” he said.

When asked about whether the administration had warned off other candidates from appearing in the interviews, he refused comment. When asked whether the three candidates had been selected already, he refused comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2015.

Punitive action: PIA fires 260 employees over forged degrees

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has terminated the services of 260 employees of different cadres after an inquiry showed that their educational certificates were forged.

Managing Director PIA Shah Nawaz told reporters that some other cases including the case of a former cricketer’s brother were still pending.

On the issue of a Jeddah flight which reportedly brought back only two passengers, he said the flight had taken 122 passengers from Pakistan to Jeddah, but on its way back it was not allowed to carry Umra pilgrims by the Saudi authorities.

He said Umra flights are different from the normal flight operations run by PIA does for Saudi Arabia and when the permission was granted by Saudi authorities to take Umra passengers it was too late and the plane had to return back keeping with its schedule.

He claimed that PIA losses for the last year were Rs15 billion less than the previous year which, he said, was a positive sign. He claimed that with induction of new planes into its fleet, PIA will be able to regain its past glory.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2015.

Afghan central bank branch employees raid their own bank and run

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Staff at a branch of Afghanistan’s central bank in southern Kandahar province may have got away with as much as 81 million Afghanis (.4 million) when they robbed their own bank and ran, an official said on Saturday.

Security cameras showed the bank’s vault had been cleaned out, but investigators were waiting to gain access before confirming the total missing, he said.

“Yesterday we could only open one of the treasury’s doors. We hope to open the next one today,” the central bank director for Afghanistan’s southwestern region, Fazel Ahmad Azimi, said.

Weak regulation undermines confidence in Afghanistan’s fragile banking system, which has yet to fully recover from a 2010 scandal over a bank that collapsed triggering a financial crisis.

An international financial watchdog last year threatened to place Afghanistan on a blacklist and has since warned it needs to do more to enforce laws to regulate its banking sector.

The Kandahar raid is believed to have been carried out by a senior official at the bank, an employee of nine years, with the help of his son and brother-in-law who were also on staff, according to Azimi.

The robbery at the branch in Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan was discovered on Thursday and investigators believed the group has escaped to Pakistan.

The group had removed CCTV recordings before fleeing to Pakistan, Azimi said, but investigators were hopeful that footage might be recovered from the memory chip of the security cameras.

We didn’t start the fire: Class-IV employees deprived of charcoal stocks, allowance

PESHAWAR: 

With Class-IV employees of the Establishment and Administration department yet to receive their year’s charcoal stocks, senior peon Haji Muhammad Khan fears they may have been swindled.

These employees including peons, sweepers, gardeners, watchmen and drivers have been receiving charcoal stocks from the government since pre-Partition.

In those days, there were no gas and electricity facilities and employees would burn the charcoal to shield themselves from the biting cold. According to the system introduced by the British, watchmen in Peshawar are entitled to 90 kilogrammes of charcoal and others are given 75 kilogrammes or the cash equivalent under market rates excluding taxes.

“All other departments’ staff received their share, but we have yet to get ours,” Khan tells The Express Tribune while busy making tea for office staff.Employees of the Civil Secretariat receive their charcoal share or cash of the same value during winter. However, Khan and his colleagues in the department have been deprived and are worried that those responsible for distribution have pocketed the share.

Civil Secretariat Class-IV Association President Jabir Hussain Bangash and other employees say efforts to acquire their stocks have thus far been useless.

“We are told that tenders have been floated for bids and the contractor is coming within a week,” says another senior peon Mohammad Bari.He adds the same cycle repeats itself week in and week out. Bari has been serving the K-P government since 1978.

He feeds his 10-member family in Peshawar with the Rs25,000 monthly salary he receives from the department. “Last year I received Rs1,800 for the season which is usually counted from November to January in Peshawar.”

“I would warm up the Angithi (fire pit) before Sahib (the boss) would reach office. The pit would then be placed in the officer’s room and I would start preparing his green tea,” says Mohammad Shahid, a finance department peon at the Civil Secretariat.

Bangash says each Class-IV employee now gets up to Rs2,000 for three months as seasonal stock every year. The Class-IV association president remains reluctant to speak on the issue because he is worried officers will stop this fund. “We don’t have any other privileges and I am afraid officers will stop this one too if we discuss it in the media.”

He adds that the issue of the Establishment and Administration department’s Class-IV employees will soon be resolved and that he is in contact with the officers who distribute the charcoal allowance.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2015.

WAPDA’S privatisation: Employees vow to resist plan

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) workers held a demonstration in front of National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday against the government’s proposed plan to privatise the body.

Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah, representatives and activists of Awami Workers Party, labour union leaders and Wapda employees from all four provinces were at the protest.

Carrying flags and banners inscribed with anti-privatisation slogans, participants of the rally later marched from NPC to Aabpara Chowk, where the rally culminated peacefully.

Besides assuring the participants that issue would be taken up at floor of parliament, Shah said the Pakistan Peoples’ Party was against privatisation of state entities and fully endorses the stance of WAPDA workers and “would continue supporting their just struggle”.

Addressing the gathering, various office bearers of Wapda unions came down hard on the federal government for its proposed privatisation plan, dubbing it a move to usurp the rights of workers.

Veteran trade unionist Khurshid Ahmed said it is the state’s responsibility to provide basic utilities to the public, including electricity.

Wapda Union President Abdul Latif Nizamani claimed privatisation would be against the constitution and also the declaration of the father of the nation, who had declared that basic facilities would be provided by the state.

Other speakers called upon the government to develop cheaper sources of electricity such as hydel, gas and coal, instead of relying on costly furnace oil-based private thermal power houses and to “recover 0 billion deposited by feudal lords and politicians in Swiss banks”.

They demanded that the government should introduce far-reaching reforms to raise the efficiency of electricity utilities instead of handing them over to private boards of directors who had no interest.

They also demanded that the prime minister should hold a dialogue with the union and discuss the issues in the National Assembly and Senate.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2015.

Five out of six PTCL employees recovered from Balochistan

QUETTA: Five employees of the Pakistan Telecommunication Limited (PTCL) who were kidnapped on February 6 have been recovered after an exchange of fire between security forces and kidnappers in the Zhob district.

The kidnappers phones were intercepted and traced, Deputy Commissioner Nazhir Mohammed Khethran told The Express Tribune.

“Balochistan Levies and Frontier Corps (FC) jointly launched a search operation at 4am in Kamardin Karez area,” he said, adding that the sixth person kidnapped has not been recovered as yet.

“A son of PTCL employee was among the people kidnapped but could not be traced. Operation is underway to find him,” he said.

The recovered kidnapped PTCL employees have been identified as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) Naeem Ashraf, Engineer Haji Asad, driver Tahir, Miraz Shujahat Beigh and Ghulam Abbas.

Security officials have traced the kidnappers’ vehicle after intercepting their calls, a senior Levies official said and the operation to trace them is still underway

Embezzling funds Ghost employees in edu dept claim bogus bills



KARACHI: 

Hundreds of ghost employees in the provincial education department have successfully claimed illegal bills, amounting to over Rs200 million in 2013 alone, in collusion with the Sindh accountant-general’s (AG) office.

The purported ‘arrear bills’ in the name of the Sindh education department’s alleged employees were said to be passed by the AG without prior approval of the department’s principal accounting officer – a post superintended by the department’s additional chief secretary, Dr Fazlullah Pechuho.

In order to curb rampant corruption, provincial education minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, after assuming charge in 2013, had directed the AG not to endorse any arrear bills, except for monthly salaries, without receiving the education department’s authorisation.

“The annual embezzlement in budgetary allocations to the provincial education department goes unchecked with the connivance of the AG and some education department officials,” wrote Karachi director of school education Abdul Wahab Abbasi in a letter to AG Ahsan Ali Kehar, dated January 20. The letter, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, included a record of misappropriated amounts given to at least 247 ghost employees in the education department.

“Since I assumed charge as the Karachi director of school education on March 13, 2014, I regret to state that the flow of irregularities in the Sindh AG has not stopped despite repeated correspondence with your office,” Abbasi stated. “Billions of rupees are being misappropriated and embezzled.”

When approached by The Express Tribune, Abbasi confirmed the authenticity of the letter. “The AG office is liable for embezzling taxpayers’ money through bogus arrear bills being approved in the names of employees who do not even exist in the education department,” he said. “Despite repeated warnings, the AG does not seem to be paying any heed.”

He explained that the AG office kept a check on the department’s budgeted amounts till the end of each financial year. “When they find that the money — and I am talking about millions and billions of rupees — is going to relapse to the provincial government due to non-utilisation, the AG officials claim it through illegal bills in the name of ghost employees,” Abbasi said.

The AG office, he added, encouraged many education department employees to help them by offering them a 50 per cent share in the results of their corruption. “Without seeking authorisation on the arrear bills from the provincial education department, the cheques were issued in the names of fake persons.”

In his letter, Abbasi had asked Kehar to send the details of all purported arrear bills approved by his office along with proper justification and approval of the competent authority.

For his part, the Sindh AG blamed the education department. “Before pointing fingers at the Sindh AG office, they should control the mafia within the education department,” said Kehar, while talking to The Express Tribune.  “We receive the letters, duly signed by the relevant education department officials, authorising the AG office to proceed with the approval of the letter-bearer’s bills.”

Later, he added, the education department’s financial signing authorities refuse to recognise their signatures. Yet, he accepted the possibility of his staff’s collusion in the embezzlement.

“My office requires more specific data from the education department so that we can take action against the staffers who are allegedly involved in misappropriation,” said Kehar. “The education department fails to identify the culprits and we cannot take blind action based on their accusations.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2015.


Job security: FESCO employees protest privatisation



FAISALABAD: 

Scores of employees of Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO) on Friday staged a protest demonstration against proposed privatisation of the company.

The protesters, carrying placards and banners, gathered at Canal Road and staged a sit-in in front of FESCO headquarters. They also blocked Canal Road, suspending traffic for several hours.

Addressing the protesters, FESCO Pegham Union president Sirajuddin Saqib said the FESCO was a profit-making company and had the lowest line losses. He said the company had a history of good recovery and was technically and financially sound.

He said FESCO’s assets would be sold off cheaply and hundreds of employees would be laid off if the company was privatised. He said the government wanted to privatise the FESCO under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He said FESCO employees would not accept privatisation of the company and would protest against the government if it pursued the process without taking them into confidence.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2015.


Unpaid remuneration: K-P govt ordered to pay arrears to 24 MNCH employees within a month



PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday granted the provincial government a period of one month to pay the arrears of 24 social mobilisers of Maternal Newborn and Children Health (MNCH). The employees were recently reinstated following the court’s orders on February 10.

The order was issued by a division bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Musarrat Hilali as the bench heard employee Irfan Jamal’s contempt of court petition.

During the hearing, Ghulam Mohibuddin, MNCH’s counsel, produced an order which stated all 24 employees had been reinstated on January 26.

However, when the bench asked when the employees will receive their pending arrears, Mohibuddin said it will take time as they will need to determine whether the employees have joined other organisations or not. Moreover, the counsel said employees will be paid as soon as funds have been received from the federal government. The total arrears of the MNCH employees amount to Rs60 million.

The court then gave the MNCH one month to pay the pending salaries of the employees. According to its order, if the payment is not made within the given period, contempt of court proceedings will be initiated against the relevant officials. The hearing was later adjourned till March 17.

In 2011, the provincial government removed these mobilisers from service without giving a proper reason except lack of funds to pay their salaries. Later, the employees approached the PHC which accepted their writ petition on April 12, 2014 and directed the government to reinstate them.

Subsequently, the provincial health department approached the Supreme Court to challenge the PHC verdict. On November 19, 2014, the division bench of SC justices Jawad S Khwaja and Sarmad Jalal Osmany dismissed the petition and upheld the high court’s decision.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2015.


Deadline issued: Health dept to reinstate 24 MNCH employees



PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday directed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Directorate of Health Services to comply with its previous order and reinstate 24 social mobilisers of the Maternal Newborn and Children Health (MNCH) project within 48 hours.

The order was issued to the health secretary, health director general and MNCH provincial coordinator by Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Musarrat Hilali as the bench heard employee Irfan Jamal’s contempt of court petition.

Jamal informed the court the provincial government removed mobilisers from service without giving a proper reason except lack of funds to pay their salaries. Later, the employees approached the PHC which accepted their writ petition on April 12, 2014 and directed the government to reinstate them.

Subsequently, the provincial health department approached the Supreme Court to challenge the PHC verdict. On November 19, 2014, the division bench of SC justices Jawad S Khwaja and Sarmad Jalal Osmany dismissed the petition and upheld the high court’s decision.

Irfan said despite orders from both courts, the provincial government has yet to reinstate the employees, adding it amounted to contempt of court.

The PHC division bench directed the health department and provincial coordinator of the MNCH to issue reinstatement orders within 48 hours.  The next hearing of the case will be held on Thursday.

On April 12, Justice Waqar Seth and Justice Muhammad Daud Khan reinstated 24 project employees of the K-P Maternal Newborn and Child Health project, with the provision of all facilities and pending salaries, from the day they were removed.

Abdul Latif Afridi, Ijaz Anwer and Muhammad Taif Khan, counsels for petitioners Irfan Jamal and others, told the court that the employees were appointed as social mobilisers in 2009. They added senior officials suspended these employees from their posts without prior notice or proper reasons.

The counsels said when the employees were removed in 2011; the only reason cited was lack of funds to pay their salaries.

The counsels of the petitioners said their clients were removed due to lack of funds for salaries, but other senior officials will continue with the project till its completion in 2015.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2015.