The Universal Service Fund Company (USF), under the directions of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, is all set to distribute 18,000 smartphones — worth millions of rupees with mobile balance — among the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) without doing any research work.
This was revealed by the Ministry of IT officials while briefing the National Assembly Standing committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.
USF officials informed that a pilot project has been initiated under which 18,000 smart phones would be distributed among the BISP beneficiaries.
However, when parliamentarians asked about the rational, logic and research behind the project, officials informed that the idea was to make the phones affordable for BISP beneficiaries.
They further said that BISP beneficiaries could use the smartphones for communication purposes. However, they admitted that no research was conducted and entire project was merely based on proposals.
The committee also raised several questions on the collection and utilization of over Rs. 100 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) and role of Finance Ministry in its utilization as some parliamentarians stated that it is allegedly reflected in foreign reserves.
Capt (R) Muhammad Safdar repeatedly asked the Ministry officials about the actual amount collected in the Fund; but Ministry officials remained mum.
MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi said that it is reportedly around $2 billion. Chairman expressed doubts about the collection and utilization of the USF.
“When we came into the government — some four years ago — the USF money was around Rs. 60 billion, which is currently around Rs. 100 billion”, said Safdar, adding that nobody knows where it is parked.
Committee chairman said that the USF money could be converted into dollars to make a lot of money, because no one knows where its stashed.
“Further it can be parked in an account against which government can borrow huge loans, as the Company lacks the capacity to utilize it”, the chairman added.
Shahzia Marri said that Finance Minister reportedly takes decisions for the utilization of USF. “If government has no role and since its not government’s money then how can Finance Minister take decision about the utilization of USF?”, she asked.
The committee directed the Ministry for giving complete details of USF collection and utilization in next meeting.