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PTCL Refusal of Audit Leads to Financial Flaws

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PTCL Refusal of Audit Leads to Financial Flaws

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has found some flaws in the $2.6 billion deal for sale of 26% privatized shares of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) with management control to the UAE-based telecom company i.e. Etisalat.

According to Dawn, a representative from National Accountability Bureau (NAB) informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they had found the flaws last month but unfortunately because of the lack of cooperation between Ministry of Information and Etisalat, it could not proceed onward.

He informed Dawn that this case has been forwarded to the bureau chairman Mr. Qamar Zaman Chaudhry. Whereas, NAB had started investigating the case in May 2013.

As per the 2004 agreement of privatization, the government had to transfer 3,248 properties to the PTCL. The properties were leased, hired and owned by the Federal Government.

PAC chairman Khurshid Shah on May 13 had stopped transfer of properties to the Etisalat and sought a presentation from the “Privatization Commission” on the agreement.

The previous government of PPP tried to transfer all properties to the PTCL and secure payment of $800 million from Etisalat, but remain unsuccessful.

Mr. Mohammad Zubair, the chairman of Privatization Commission, informed the committee that of the 3,248 properties, only 3,214 had been transferred.

Mr. Mohammad Zubair also informed that the value of outstanding properties is $92 million while Etisalat has stopped payment of $800m since 2007; adding a huge loss to the national economy.

The chairman of Privatization Commission said:

“Etisalat had been requested to pay the outstanding money after adjusting the amount of leftover 34 properties, but it insisted to proceed with the matter in accordance with the share purchase agreement under which the government was required to transfer all the properties to the PTCL.”

Audit officials informed the meeting that Etisalat had already got itself exempted from the audit by the auditor general of Pakistan by raising Section 6 of the Telecom Act, 1996, in the agreement. They also informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that after the introduction 18th Amendment, the auditor general included the PTCL in the audit plan once again, but the PTCL interestingly refused to get its accounts audited.

The PAC chairman asked the law ministry to give legal opinion on this matter. Whereas, the audit authorities, said the law ministry had already provided its opinion and had said to conduct the audit of PTCL accounts.

This situation indicates the failure of our involved ministries and departments whose laziness to resolve such serious matters on time always led to awkward results. Unfortunately, in Pakistan the Government always show snail-paced performance on the matters that must be resolved on priority basis. All relevant ministries must look into the issue and convince PTCL to conduct its audit.