Published on October 24th, 2010 | by Arsalan Mir5
State of Affairs of ICT R&D Fund and Universal Service Fund
ICTRDF and USF have been in dormant during the last few months because of government’s inaction and former minister in-charge’s negative actions. The issue now takes turn where the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) has demanded suspension of the contributions of its members to the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) Research and Development (R&D) Fund and Universal Service Fund (USF). The excerpt from the The News report gives the details.
In a letter to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which collects mandatory payments by all telecom operators for these funds, ISPAK demanded that since last six months, government has miserably failed to resolve the serious issues being faced by both funds and any further contributions by the telecom operators should be stopped till both organisations are back on the track.
ICT R&D Fund and USF operate as independent organisations under the control of Ministry of IT (MOIT) and then Minister In-charge for IT, Sardar Latif Khosa, removed six independent directors from the board of ICT R&D Fund besides sacking the Company Secretary in June 2010.
The sacked board members approached the Lahore High Court terming action by Mr. Khosa as illegal and LHC has suspended the orders issued by Khosa. Numerous projects of ICT R&D Fund being executed by the Universities and R&D organisations have been stopped due to non-disbursement of funds by the organisation.
The executing agencies left with no budget for payment of salaries, have laid-off their researchers leading to sinking of billions of rupees already invested in these projects.
Payments from USF have also been stopped as no meeting of the board was held since 31 March 2010 and budget for the current year has also not been approved.
“While telecom operators have been fulfilling their obligations earnestly and contributed billions of rupees to these funds in addition to payment of heavy taxes, the government has miserably failed to fulfil its obligations,” ISPAK said.
Even after the removal of Khosa first as Minister In-charge and his subsequent resignation as Advisor to the Prime Minister on IT, situation of both organisations has not improved.
“There have been rumours that government is planning to divert the funds available with ICT R&D Fund and USF to some other activities for political gain but any such use of funds would be illegal,” ISPAK said.
Further the text of the letter shared on TGP by Mr. Wahaj us Siraj is as follows:
18 October 2010
Dr. Mohammad Yaseen
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority
Subject: State of Affairs of ICT R&D Fund and Universal Service Fund and Contributions by Telecom Operators
Two important organizations created through sole contributions of telecom operators for promotion of telecom sector in the country have been forced to become practically dormant over last six months. All telecom operators of the country, as part of their licensed obligations, have been contributing a significant percentage of their annual gross revenues to these funds on regular basis since last many years.
2. While telecom operators have been fulfilling their obligations earnestly and contributed billions of rupees to these funds in addition to payment of heavy taxes, the Government has miserably failed to fulfill its obligations, that were, to provide an efficient, professional and transparent organizational structure to utilize these funds for promotion of information communication technologies (ICT) and extend telecom infrastructure to under and un-served areas of the country.
3. The gloomy state of affairs of both organizations is summarized as follows:
ICT R&D Fund
a. Last meeting of the Board of Directors (BOD) was held on 30 March 2010.
b. Company Secretary was ‘illegally’ sacked by the then Chairman BOD on 26 May 2010.
c. Financial and administrative powers of the Acting CEO were ‘illegally’ withdrawn by the then Chairman BOD in June 2010, thus leaving the organization unable to perform its functions.
d. Six independent directors of the Board were ‘illegally’ removed from the BOD by the then Chairman on 7 July 2010.
e. Despite the orders of Lahore High Court on suspension of the notification of removal of independent directors on 20 September 2010, no meeting of BOD has been convened by the Government, despite requisitions submitted by the majority of Board members.
f. Numerous projects of ICT R&D Fund being executed by the Universities and R&D organizations have been stopped due to non disbursement of funds by the organization. The executing agencies left with no budget for payment of salaries, have started laying off their researchers. This means that billions of rupees already invested in these projects are just going down the drain due to apathy of Government.
Universal Service Fund
g. Last meeting of BOD was held on 31 March 2010.
h. No grants for the approved and ongoing projects have been released by the Government thus halting the ongoing projects to extend telecom services in rural and un-served areas.
i. Payments to telecom operators for approved and competed projects have been stopped due to non-release of grants by the Government.
3. PTA has been imposing penalties on telecom operators for even a day of delayed payments as contribution to R&D and US Funds but this blatant non-fulfillment of obligations by the Government has gone unchecked by the regulator. Nominees of the Federal Government on BODs of both organizations have also not played their legitimate role and did not make any effort to save these organizations from disaster.
5. There have been rumors that Government is planning to divert the funds available with ICT R&D Fund and USF to some other ‘activities’ for political gain. Funds of both organizations have a specific mandate and their utilization by the Government for any purpose other than specified in the relevant statue, rules and regulations would be in excess of authority, ultra vires of the law and illegal.
6. In view of above, we request that payments from the telecom operators to ICT R&D Fund and USF to PTA are kindly suspended till Government resolves pending issues of these organizations and bring them back on fully functional track.
With kind regards.
Wahaj us Siraj
1. Mrs. Nergis Sethi, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad
2. Mr. Naguib ullah Malik, Secretary, Ministry of IT, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad
3. Mr. Iqbal Awan, Additional Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad.
4. Mr. Nasrul Karim Ghaznavi, Member Finance, PTA, Islamabad.