A company statement published on Universal Service Fund’s website has said that Mr. Ishaq Dar, Finance Minister, approved a telecenter project worth Rs. 5 billion, despite the fact that Mr. Dar has nothing to do with USF.
For those who don’t know, Universal Service Fund is a private company, established under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984. It is run by independent governing board that has four directors from private sector and another four from public sector. CEO happens to be the ninth director of the company.
Interestingly, Mr. Ishaq Dar, Minister Finance, isn’t on the board and has nothing to do with the decision making at the company.
Ishaq Dar is an outsider for USF company, and his involvement in approving USF projects is illegal
USF, as an independent and autonomous body, doesn’t need to ask any outsider to approve its projects.
It merits mentioning here that telecom companies deposit 1.5% of their annual revenues to Universal Service Fund and this money is ultimately used by USF for various project that are aimed at stretching telecom and IT services in far-flung, under-served areas of the country.
According to experts, Mr. Dar’s influence on USF is illegal and can be questioned by the court. His influence on an independent ICT company may also lead to politicisation of telecom sector which is otherwise unbiased towards any political regime.
For instance, due to such influence from Mr. Dar, proposed tele-centres might get allotted on political grounds, despite the fact that money spent on these tele-centres came from cellular companies. Moreover, each tele-centre is said to employ three individuals for operations — which we suspect will be hired on Mr. Dar or his party’s consent.
This is why industry opposed the removal of USF money (about Rs. 70 billion) from company accounts to Federal Consolidated Fund.
By influencing USF, Mr. Dar is politicizing a private company that runs on telco’s funds
Cellular industry, that is actually the real funder of USF, is silent on the matter, hinting that they have some kind of arrangement with politicians.
We tried, but couldn’t arrange USF’s take on this.
It won’t be out of place to mention that USF hasn’t publicized any criteria for areas/towns where said tele-centres will be established. USF has also not made the list public for proposed areas/towns where these tele-centers will be established.
We doubt that these tele-centers might get deployed in only such areas where government needs political advantage, and may sabotage the core-philosophy of USF.