LAHORE: The Transparency International Pakistan has pinpointed violations of Public Procurement Rule Ordinance 2002 and Public Procurement Rules 2004 in the hiring of financial advisory services for lawyers/law firms by the Privatisation Commission.

“If the consultants are not appointed on merit and transparently by the Privatisation Commission, the whole process of privatisation will be deemed to be non-transparent as handpicked consultants and advisers will only act as a rubber-stamp to certify the wrong process of the commission,” the TI has cautioned in a letter written to the Privatisation Commission chairman.

The TI has also brought the matter to the knowledge of the National Accountability Bureau, secretary to the prime minister, the Public Accounts Committee, the Supreme Court registrar and the PPRA managing director.

It says the requirement of the PPRA is that “Privatisation Commission shall provide documents of Expression of Interest which shall include minimum following information -- appropriate description of the assignment providing scope of the intellectual and professional services required, deadline and place of the submission of the expression of interest, and criteria for short-listing or prequalification where required.

“For compliance of transparency and elimination of discretion, the evaluation criteria should be prepared and supplied to all parties, so that selection of parties is made on merit and pre-determined criteria.

“The requirement of document of request for proposal (RFP) is also mandatory under the PPRA, which must include information under Rule No 8 of Procurement of Consultancy Services Regulation 2010, which includes the selection method used, evaluation criteria and other information.

“The Privatisation Commission is allowed to make the RFO according to its requirement, and bidding documents from its past experience. Charging of processing fee of Rs50,000 in these cases is not allowed under the PPRA, which states that only printing cost shall be charged if any. And that is also not needed.”

The Transparency International further said in order to eliminate pre-selection of parties and cartelisation, NAB in consultation with the PPRA had issued the new directives, vide its letter No 5-2 (75) Pre/ A & P/ NABHQ/ 2013, saying all the procuring agencies should make available the bidding or prequalification documents and other related communication in downloaded format for any interested bidder or party on their website to use these documents for submitting bid(s) with admissible tender fee, if any, paid in bank as prescribed by procuring agency.

“The Director General’s statement about processing these procurements as per Privatisation Procurement Law is wrong,” it said.

It further said: “All the procurements of federal government are to be conducted in accordance with provisions of Public Procurement Rule Ordinance 2002, Public Procurement Rules 2004 and Public Procurement Regulations for Procurement of Consultancy Services Regulations 2010, and not on Privatisation Procurement Law, which is superseded by the PPRA Ordinance 2002.

“The RFP should be opened in front of the bidders and the last date for submission of the RFP and opening should be same which is not being done by the Privatisation Commission.”

The TI informed the commission chairman that the above information had been forwarded for the purpose of avoiding the mis-procurement charge under Rule No 50 and with request to re-invite the tender under the prescribed procedures or issue a corrigendum and extend date accordingly.

A source said it seemed the commission was violating the rules to “oblige the PML-N lawyers’ wing”. He asked why the law ministry was not consulted in the process.

Responding to the TI concerns, the federal finance ministry said: “The Privatisation Commission has observed the applicable laws, rules and regulations in letter and spirit. Procurement opportunity was properly advertised. The said EOIs had comprehensive information for the procurement purposes for all concerned.”

As for the processing fee, it said, the Commission’s RFPs were not conventional bidding documents which were constructed by multiple tiers of sector specialist professionals having extensive experience. Charging of processing fee was not prohibited, the ministry said.