LAHORE: The caretaker government of Punjab, led by Chief Minister Hasan Askari, has decided to disband 12 “non-active and non-operational corporations” established by ex-chief minister Shehbaz Sharif after fulfilling all legal requirements, rules and regulations and getting an NoC from the accountability watchdog.
In a meeting to review the performance of Punjab’s public sector companies, the interim setup decided that a comprehensive strategy would be designed to bring necessary balance in the salaries of officers and employees of public sector departments as well as government officers posted in such companies.
Deputation allowance to government officers and other employees posted in public sector companies to lessen the fiscal burden on the exchequer was also proposed during the meeting.
Rizvi, while addressing the meeting, decided to extend necessary cooperation to the anti-graft watchdog with regard to the companies established under the 2013-2018 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
The chief minister said that secretaries would give a detailed briefing to their respective ministers about the public sector companies established in their departments. “Afterwards, the final recommendations will be presented to the caretaker cabinet for an approval,” he added.
It was stated during the briefing that implementation had been made on the decision to remove politically-appointed personalities in the boards of directors of the said companies, while the law department apprised the meeting about the legal mechanism to close down public sector companies and other legal matters pertaining to them.
Secretaries concerned also gave a detailed briefing about the matters related to the public companies of their respective departments.
On Thursday, it was reported that all “unnecessary” public sector companies formed by the outgoing Punjab government would be disbanded by CM Askari. Out of 71, at least 62 companies were active.
Besides close scrutiny of the finances of the companies, the caretaker CM had also ordered to remove all political appointees from their posts as well and said that some of the “appointments were due to their political position, such as PML-N’s Qamarul Islam, while others were appointed by virtue of their office”.
The PML-N’s Punjab government had landed into hot water after NAB had decided to initiate graft proceedings against the government pertaining to Rs 80 billion embezzlements last year.
Besides NAB, the Lahore High Court (LHC) is also hearing a corruption case of about Rs80 billion corruption in these companies. This probe among other things had led to escalation of tension between Shehbaz-led Punjab government at that time and the anti-graft bureau.
In addition to that, the Supreme Court had also taken notice of the recruitment of officials on inordinately high salaries as chief executives of the 56 public companies.
CM Shehbaz, who had appeared before CJP Saqib Nisar-led bench in the first week of June, was grilled by the Justice Nisar after he had failed to satisfy the court. Shehbaz had told the court that the appointments had been made on the basis of merit and claimed to have saved billions of rupees from being plundered.
Justice Nisar said that all the officers who enjoyed perks worth tens of thousands of rupees would have to pay back each and every penny, adding that Shehbaz would be responsible for ensuring this payback. He said that notices would be issued to the CM if the amount was not returned.
The chief minister went on to say that the court can give whatever punishment it finds suitable if corruption of a single penny is proved against him.
At that point, Justice Ijazul Ahsan quoted the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) findings which suggested corruption in all 56 companies. Shehbaz, however, challenged the findings and said that the bureau must show the evidence, if it has any.