— Accountability watchdog suspects accused misused authority in USF publicity campaign causing heavy losses to national exchequer
— Replaced ‘in accordance with PPRA’ with ‘and launch it expeditiously’ to carry out illegal media campaign without competitive bidding process
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountancy Bureau (NAB) has ostensibly established the involvement of former premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and others in a case of alleged misuse of authority in a publicity campaign of Universal Service Fund (USF), which caused heavy losses to the national exchequer, Pakistan Today has learnt.
As per the details, NAB on September 6 has filed a reference in the accountability court against Gillani, former principal information officer (PIO) of the Press Information Department (PID) Muhammad Saleem, former Ministry of Information Technology secretary Farooq Awan, former chief executive officer of the USF Riaz Asher Siddiqui, the CEO of the advertising agency, USF’s former company secretary Syed Hasan Shikoh and former PA to PRO IT Muhammad Hanif.
It is suspected that the nominees, in collusion and connivance with each other and by misusing their authority, extended an undue benefit to Inam Akbar and made attempts to cause a huge loss to the national exchequer.
“It is, therefore, prayed that accused persons may be tried and punished in accordance with law by this Honorable Court or by any other Court to which this Reference may be entrusted,” reads the NAB reference.
A complaint was registered with the bureau by ISPAK Convener Wahajus Siraj on May 24, 2012, and alleged that in April 2012, USF exhibited a publicity campaign on various TV channels across the country at the cost of approximately Rs120 million. The campaign was aired through advertising agency M/s Midas (Pvt) Ltd, which was not an approved advertising agency of USF. The media campaign was aired in violation of PPRA Rules 2004.
According to NAB investigation, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani (the then prime minister), being IT minister and as USF Board chairman, directed to run a media campaign to highlight the achievements of USF in the 26th USF board meeting and in the 27th USF board meeting, allowed Riaz Asher Siddiqui, the then USF CEO to initiate and finalise the award of contract and carry out the process of selection of advertising agency for running the media campaign with an approved budget of Rs152 millions in accordance with PPRA rules.
It has also been learnt from the documents that Yousuf Raza Gillani, Farooq Awan, and Syed Hasan Shikoh, in connivance and collusion with each other and by misusing their authority in order to render undue benefit to Inam Akbar, changed the draft minutes of the 27th USF Board Meeting wherein the words “in accordance with PPRA” were replaced with “and launch it expeditiously” which resulted in rendering illegal favour and benefit to Inam to carry out the illegal and unlawful media campaign without any competitive bidding process.
Accused Inam Akbar aired the electronic media campaign of USF from 14.04.2012 to 22.04.2012 by using USF logo on different TV Channels without the issuance of release order by the competent authority and in this behalf, the accused Inam Akbar was served with the legal notice dated 17.04.2012 by USF.
It is pertinent to mention that Inam Akbar filed a civil suit in the Islamabad High Court against USF for recovery of the amount for the work done and perform their part of the contract. In the plaint, the claims are based upon the release order dated 20.05.2012 in respect of electronic media campaign, but the USF, in the written statement, denied issuance of such release order in respect of electronic media campaign. Riaz Asher Siddiqui denied issuance of the Release Order dated 20.05.2012 and disowned his signature on the said letter before Magistrate.
Farooq Awan willfully and knowingly did not ensure the application of PPRA Rules 2004 and Ministry of Information Broadcasting / PID policy guidelines on advertising. He also illegally and with mala fide intentions managed to get a notice issued to accused Muhammad Hanif for publication of an advertisement in media regarding the appointment of ad agencies on USF panel without obtaining approval of the Ministry, hence averted the competitive bidding process in accordance with PPRA Rules 2004.
Riaz Asher Siddiqui and Muhammad Saleem, PIO, PID, in connivance with each other appointed the company of accused Inam Akbar on the panel of USF on an ad-hoc basis in absence of any emergent and/or special conditions without any justification. Muhammad Hanif, Ex-PA to PRO IT without any authority issued directions to award print media campaign of USF.
Inam Akbar, in connivance with other accused persons, illegally and with mala fide intentions violated the PID instructions and prescribed procedures regarding the running of media campaigns and aired the entire electronic media campaign without getting any written orders (release order) neither from MOIT nor USF and served exorbitant bills for payment.
He dishonestly claimed amount by preparing a bogus and fictitious release order of USF dated 20-05-2012 for running electronic media campaign which was never authorised by USF.