WASHINGTON DC, June 14, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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TIP Vice President Syed Adil Gilani (L) and PIA Chairman Kirmani signing the Integrity Pact

PIA Signs Integrity Pact Which Ex-Chairman Had Refused to Sign

By M A Siddiqui

KARACHI, June 14: Pakistan’s national airline, PIA, has finally reversed many of the policies of the previous management of ex-Chairman Ahmed Saeed and has signed an “Integrity Pact” with global anti-corruption watchdog organization, Transparency International, something Saeed had refused to do for three years.

The management of Tariq Kirmani has thus, by implication, conceded that the previous management of Chairman Saeed was following corrupt practices in many areas, specially purchases, known to be worth millions of dollars.

The Pact was signed as a Memorandum of Understanding on June 10 and copies of the three-page MOU were officially provided to the South Asia Tribune by Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) Vice President, Syed Adil Gilani. Click to View MOU Page1 | Page2 | Page3

The signing came after TIP had publicly written on May 6 to the new Chairman to sign the Pact as he had taken over the reigns of a gigantic public sector company which has not very good perception on its procurement.

The implicit admission that ex-Chairman Saeed’s administration was corrupt was made by the new Chairman himself who, while speaking on the occasion of the signing ceremony said the MOU was “basically a route which the PIA was adopting to bring transparency and excellence in procurements.

According to a Press release issued by PIA after the ceremony, Chairman Tariq Kirmani made an apparently negative reference to the Saeed administration and said: “The present policy of PIA where different departments are making purchases separately is being improvised and a centralized procurement system which caters to the needs of all the departments is being established.” Click to read Press release

By rejecting this PIA policy, used massively by the previous PIA Chairman, for the most prolific buying spree in PIA history during which new aircraft were purchased, new systems installed though not needed, new and unfit aircraft seats were installed at exorbitant price, new planes on lease were taken and old planes were sold at dubious price, the new management wants to create for itself a new image.

“This agreement with Transparency International will further not only financial benefits but will also earn the organization a good reputation,” the PIA Press release said, stressing the urgency of earning a good reputation as against its existing image.

The MOU with TIP, or the Integrity Pact, which was due to be signed on June 3, 2005 was finally inked at a ceremony on June 10. “The Integrity Pact is a tool developed by TIP which ensures that all activities and decision of public offices are transparent and that the projects/works are implemented, services are provided or taken, and good/material are supplied without giving bribe or allowing for any kind of benefit, financial or otherwise,” it said.

The main clause of the MOU is that PIA will establish accountability in all its dealings and try to provide all the necessary checks and balances in an effort towards a transparent procurement system.

“A Coordination Committee of PIA and TIP will be formed to implement the Integrity Pact in its procurement systems,” the MOU said. This committee will have three member from PIA and two from TIP while Secretary General of TIP will act as Chairman.

The other reassuring points included in the MOU say all important decisions taken by PIA will be made public, PIA will make its source of income and revenues public, PIA will inform all about the activities carried out under the Integrity Pact, the Committee will identify and list all issues of transparency and evaluation of Tenders criteria in the procurement bidding documents.

The most important clause is that the PIA management has conceded that all “existing contract documents” will be subjected to scrutiny under the Integrity Pact, which means that the deals done by ex-Chairman Ahmed Saeed will be examined and in some cases, if found dirty, may be probed and those who benefited may be prosecuted.

The TIP will vet all PIA tender documents says another clause of the MOU but TIP will not be part of the tendering process in any way. It will, however, provide experts to PIA without any cost. TIP will be provided all documents to scrutinize any deal, the MOU says.

The signing of the Integrity Pact marks a major step forward towards more transparency in PIA but the way the new Chairman has been moving at a painfully slow speed indicates he is under tremendous pressure not to annoy the friends of the ex-Chairman inside the circle of General Musharraf.

Experts say by shifting the onus of catching the thieves to TIP, the new Chairman is trying to avoid direct responsibility of undoing what Ahmed Saeed did to PIA.

“The dilemma for Mr Kirmani is that if he owns what Ahmed Saeed has left behind, he cannot justify it or turn the airline around. If he does not own these misdeeds he annoys powerful friends of Saeed in the top echelons of authority which may endanger his own job,” a PIA executive said on condition of anonymity.

The Integrity Pact with TIP is thus seen by Kirmani and others as the face saving way to nab the thieves while staying on the right side of the power wielders.

See earlier SAT story

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