Mobilink's Mobile Banking Service Contract with Pakistan Post Raises Question

We remember that Mobilink signed an agreement with Pakistan Post Office to introduce Mobile Money Order Service in Pakistan, back in last week of November 2008. The agreement was signed by Ahsan Basir Sheikh, Additional Director General (Financial Services) from Pakistan Post and Bilal Munir Sheikh, VP Marketing from Mobilink.

Everything looked good, in fact we were expecting the execution of service by now, but a news item appearing in “The News” today has different opinion. It said that Pakistan Post Office discriminated other cellular operators while agreeing on such a contract with Mobilink only. News item claimed so as PPO is a government institute and it was irregular to favor a single company, additionally PPO could have raised more money if the process was carried away through bidding and by inviting other operators for the contract as well, so that their customers could send Mobile Money orders to anyone in the country.

Following is the excerpt from ‘The News’

Under the MMO service, customers of the Mobilink can remit money to anyone through a mobile phone SMS. Similarly, they can also withdraw or deposit up to Rs10,000. The customer needs to fill a form available at authorised Post Office branches across the country once the service is launched.

After the form is submitted, customer will be able to send and receive money orders to cellphone users via SMS within 24 hours.

Interestingly, the PPO claims that the cellular service users can withdraw their money anywhere in Pakistan but Mobilink does not cater to 66 per cent of the subscribers in Pakistan, which comes close to 60 million. On the other hand, PPO is a government organisation so it needs to have a uniform approach and cater to the people’s needs.

Government organisations are supposed to go through a proper bidding process for such activities. This will also help the government earn more money. However signing the MMO service agreement with a single operator, the PPO has ignored all other operators, an irregularity on the part of the organisation.

The MMO is an adaptation of the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) branchless banking guidelines. However, the same guidelines indicate that Pakistan Post cannot take an initiative as a banking entity in the mobile commerce e-space.

The News contacted SBP spokesman Syed Wasimuddin on January 12 for the bank’s view on the issue, which according to him, were forwarded to the concerned department. However, when asked when the replies would be expected, the spokesman said he couldn’t say.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Post officials, who have been working on this service for over a year and a half, had predicted criticism from various quarters in case an agreement was signed. However, these warnings were ignored.

An official of PPO working on the MMO service project, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed that Mobilink executives monitored and directed the whole project. “The company’s executives sat with us in the PPO offices during the drafting of the project details,” he said. The mobile company officials provided consultative support to the PPO officials in this regard, he added.

He said that the official involved in the working of the service pointed out to the Director General that offering MMO to a single company would restrict many people from availing it.

The News contacted Director General Pakistan Post and Secretary Postal Services Division, Mohammed Ahmed Mian, in this regard who said that the PPO had signed an agreement of sharing of services. “Work on the project continued for the past year and a half year,” he said adding that the PPO was making arrangements for launching the service. When asked why the PPO had made agreement with a single operator, he said there is room for others but initially the project will be launched with a single company to keep an eye on the performance.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK