The Universal Service Fund, which has proved to be the best operating USF in the world and was being used as a benchmark by other countries, is operating without any budget in this fiscal year, resulting no operations and non-payment of salaries to its staff since June 2010.
After recent clash between Mr. Khosa and various IT and Telecom organizations and then his departure as Minister in-charge of MoIT, USF is waiting for its board meeting for budget approvals and decisions on various managerial and operational tasks.
USF’s last board meeting was held on March 31st, 2010, since then organization has become non-functional at all levels.
Just like ICT R&D Fund, USF is waiting for Prime Minister’s nod to resolve administrative issues so that this key organization of telecom industry kicks its operations going.
We have discussed in past on USF’s role for the development of telecom and broadband industry in the country, however, this on-going situation has literally paralyzed the organization with no new projects, audit of on-going projects, assessments, research work and other organizational tasks.
Well placed source at USF confirmed that company has not spent a single rupee since 1st July 2010. Employees are not paid salaries for several months now, while CEO and GMs are paying running-expenses (or call it salaries) to lower staff from their own pockets so that at least they survive in these days of inflation.
This is the limit of destroying an organization that has been allocated a total of Rs. 15.1 billion to spend for enabling telecom services in un-served areas of the country.
As mentioned above, last Board Meeting was held on 31st March in which all other Board Members unanimously proposed to re-employ the current CEO. The Chairman (Minister in-charge) asked to postpone the decision till next Board Meeting, which was never held.
It merits mentioning here that USF operates with the help of 1.5 revenue share given by all cellular companies annually. Moreover, there are billions of Rupees (estimates suggest 25-30 billion rupees) sitting at ministry level under the head of USF, however, they can’t be utilized as budget hasn’t been approved for the company for on-going fiscal year.
It must be noted that all funds are kept by Ministry of IT and are allotted to USF only after approval of (telecom) projects.
Just to give our readers an idea, following are some of key achievements of USF, since its inception:
- USF was allocated a total of Rs. 15.1 to spend on telecom projects in un-served areas. This could also be more if Board Meetings could be held to approve signing of contracts where open bidding has been completed or where bidding could be initiated – both waiting board approvals.
- A total fund of Rs. 6.3 billion is allocated for laying of fiber optic throughout the country, connecting all Tehsils.
- Through USF, telecom services were available to approximately 4.3 million people in 3,400 previously-unserved villages and work is in progress for another 2,700 villages where 2.5 Mil people live.
- In last three years, USF made broadband services available to 15.5 Million People in urban/semi-urban areas in over 200 cities.
- Nearly 150,000 customers attained broadband services in more than 200 cities. Note that in these 200+ cities there was no broadband in the beginning of 2009.
- Under the head of special projects, USF made various services available to 200,000 people through pilot telecenters + many more benefitting through ICT facilities for disabled persons at Shifa Eye International Hospital and Foundation for Fighting Blindness.
- Telecom companies, with help of USF installed total around 500 cell sites, out of which more than half have been installed and technical audit of 235 has been done