Well informed sources told Business Recorder that on a summary moved by the Ministry of Industries, Saadat Cheema was appointed as Chairman, EPZA in MP-I on October 2012 on a contract basis for a period of two years after approval by the Prime Minister. However, Secretary Industries and Production, Shafqat Naghmi in a summary to the Prime Minister observed that a recent review of the personnel file of Saadat Cheema revealed that he was not appointed as Chairman EPZA by following the laid down procedures or instructions of Establishment Division as the post was neither advertised nor was the selection made through a selection committee.
Secretary Industries, in his summary, also cited reference in favour of his summary saying that the Establishment Division had also terminated many service contracts of other CEOs/Chairmen where the appointments were not made in accordance with procedures.
Official documents available with this scribe reveal that the then Prime Minister had appointed Chairman EPZA on a summary sent by the same Secretary Industries, Shafqat Naghmi who had later observed that the appointment was illegal.
The then Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, Ayub Qazi, in a letter to the Secretary Industries wrote on October 17, 2113 that in terms of Establishment Division’s OM dated May 10, 1997 the selection board for appointment of Chief Executive/ head of the organisation is headed by the Minister incharge which considers and recommends from a panel of three names for each vacancy.
In Saadat Cheema’s case, the selection board headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister/ Senior Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had selected from the panel consisting of Saadat Cheema, Agha Nadeem and Z.H. Khan (already working for the federal government); and recommended Cheema’s name for the post of Chairman EPZA. Two weeks ago, Ministry of Industries and Production gave an interim charge of CEO PSM after sudden resignation of CEO Major General Muhammad Javed (Retd).
Supreme Court in its judgement on June 11, 2013 on a petition filed by Khawaja Asif versus the Federation had directed the government that the appointments in autonomous/semi-autonomous bodies, corporations, regulatory authorities, etc, made before the appointment of caretaker government shall also be subject to review by the elected government by adopting the prescribed procedure to ensure that right persons are appointed on the right job.
During the hearing of case, it was pointed out to petitioner Khawaja Muhammad Asif that although he, being an elected Member of the Parliament, had raised questions touching upon the transparency in the appointment of the heads of the autonomous, semi-autonomous bodies, corporations, regulatory authorities, etc, but in his own capacity as a public representative, he had also to ensure that all the appointments in such like bodies as well as the appointments on contract basis must be made in a transparent manner.
In some countries, effective steps have been taken to stop such colossal loss of the national resources by day-to-day measures to improve the professional quality and political neutrality of appointments to public bodies/regulatory authorities by ensuring that selection in such bodies is based on merit, fairness and openness.
In the UK, an independent Commissioner is available to regulate, monitor, report and advice the public appointments, the performances etc All the government departments while making such appointments are bound to follow the code of practice which has been issued by the Commissioner. Similarly, in Canada all appointments for Chief Executives, Directors and Chairpersons of public sector corporations are subject to a strict merit-based system. It may be noted that an elected government has to heavily rely upon public bodies to implement their policies and the objective essentially cannot be achieved if honest and competent persons are not holding such public offices. While making such appointments, the following parameters are to be considered:
(1) Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
(2) Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choice solely on merit.
(3) Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
(4) Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
(5) Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
(6) Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
Be that as it may, in order to ensure the enforcement of the fundamental right enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution and considering it to be a question of public importance, a Commission headed by and comprising two other competent and independent members having impeccable integrity, may be the Federal Ombudsman or Chairman NAB or a Member of Civil Society having exceptional ability and integrity, is required to be constituted by the Federal Government through open merit based process having fixed tenure of four years to ensure appointments in statutory bodies, autonomous bodies, semi-autonomous bodies, regulatory authorities to ensure appointment of all the government controlled corporations, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, etc. The Commission should be mandated to ensure that all public appointments are made solely on merits. The Commission should discharge mainly the following functions: –
(i) Regulate public appointments processes within his remit;
(ii) implement a Code of Practice that sets out the principles and core processes for fair and transparent merit-based selections;
(iii) chair the selection panels for appointing heads of public/statutory bodies and chairs and members of their boards, where necessary;
(iv) appoint Public Appointments Assessors to chair the selection panels for appointing heads of public/statutory bodies and chairs and members of their boards, where appropriate;
(v) report publicly on a public/statutory body’s compliance with the Code of Practice, including examples of poor and good performance, and best practice;
(vi) investigate complaints about unfair appointment process;
(vii) Monitor compliance with the Code of Practice;
(viii) Ensure regular audit of appointments processes within his remit;
(ix) Issue an annual report giving detailed information about appointments processes, complaints handled, and highlights of the main issues which have arisen during the previous year. The annual report for the previous calendar year should be laid before the Parliament by 31st March;
(x) Take any other measures deemed necessary for ensuring that processes for public sector appointments that fall in his remit are conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are fully guarded against.
Analysts argue that the termination of Saadat Cheema appears to be in contravention to the SC decision as the process has not been completed by the Commission as was recommended by the apex court.