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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company (EZDMC) has fired its two top executives over ‘poor performance’ with many fearing the development will rock the boat of the provincial government-owned company.

The decision to immediately sack chief financial officer Shahid Khattak and chief human resources officer (CHRO) Jawad Amin came unanimously during a meeting of the EZDMC board of directors on Thursday.

“The board has unanimously decided to remove the CFO and CHRO with the immediate effect as per the applicable clause of their respective employment contract,” stated the minutes of the BoD meeting obtained by Dawn.

The BoD directed both sacked officials to immediately vacate their offices and hand over the company’s ‘assets, documents and identity cards’ to the management.

The development at the provincial government-owned company, which was set up in Aug 2015 for industrialisation of the province, came at the heels of resignation of the company’s chief executive officer (CEO), Mohsin Syed, whose arrest at the NAB Punjab on corruption charges in May had infuriated Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.

They insist punished for defying chairman’s orders to violate rules on compensation payment

“Mr Khattak was so angry that he even stopped Mr Syed from appearing in front of him,” a source claimed, adding that the CEO stepped down shortly thereafter.

The sources said a row over land compensation to those affected by the Jalozai industrial estate led to the downfall of CFO Shahid Khattak, while Mr Amin paid the price for opposing the new hiring.

However, one of the sacked executives told Dawn that they were fired for not complying with the company chairman’s directives, who was trying to curry favour with the chief minister by violating rules for the payment of land compensation to the people in his native district.

“I was fired for resisting their illegal moves,” Mr Shahid told Dawn.

The documents shared with Dawn show that Jalozai industrial estate was conceived back in March 2003 at a cost of Rs99.043 million, including Rs. 50 million for land procurement.

The provincial government then acquired 257 acres of land at the cost of Rs27.02 million or Rs500 per marla in 2005.

The landowners, who unhappy with the compensation money approached court, which enhanced per marla rate to Rs10,000 from Rs500, besides 15 per cent compulsory acquisition and six per cent interest.

Later, the Peshawar High Court also further enhanced compulsory acquisition charges by 10 per cent.

The compensation amount ballooned to Rs738.64 million due to the court’s enhancement order. Of the amount, Rs27 million was paid back in 2005, while Rs200 million was paid to Nowshera court in Nov 2015 for further distribution to landowners.

For the remaining Rs500 million, the bridge financing was approved in Sept 2015.

However, legal and other issues delayed the financing agreement, which was finally signed back in May 2016. Despite several meetings and correspondence, the finances weren’t secured for compensation, while no sums of amount was earmarked in the 2017-18 budget for the industrial development.

Mr Khattak told Dawn that when the company’s management pushed him and Amin to quickly pay compensation for the affected people on the provincial government’s pressure.

“We told the management to choose one of three options, including bridge financing, re-appropriation from other development projects, and use of the company’s current budget,” he said.

He added that for the last option, he asked them to submit a business plan, as after doing away with that sum they would not be any amount to pay staff salaries and other expenses.

“On July 21, a meeting of the chairman and CEO took place at Lahore, where they tried to pressure me saying you need to make the payments or we have to search someone else in place of you,” he said, adding that I asked for a business plan to be approved both by the finance committee and board.

Mr Khattak said it was an item agenda on BoD meeting but, in a ‘maneuvered manner’, he and other sacked executive were asked to go out and that they were later informed about the sacking.

He said the strength of the company’s workforce stood at 60 in June 2016 but it jumped to 308 in June 2017 prompting a NAB to seek explanation on what it called illegal appointments.

He said they also wanted to hire about 80 new people and CHRO was not ready for this.

When contacted, EZDMC chairman Ghulam Dastagir said the BoD was not happy with a ‘lack of performance’ on part of the two officials and therefore, they were sacked.

“We asked the CFO to prepare a business plan but he did not budge. He also torpedoed attempts to hire the company’s secretary,” he said, adding that he didn’t jot down the last meeting’s minutes properly.

About the Jalozai industrial estate issue, Mr Dastagir said the officials dragged their feet on the issue despite repeated orders to resolve the issue.

“In case of delay, the company adds further Rs30 million per quarter to the bill,” he said.

The EZDMC chairman said the CFO was asked during the sixth meeting of the board to clear the issue until the next meeting.

He claimed that the two executives had never been pressured and that they’re sacked over poor performance and would sack more people found to be inefficient.

Mr Dastagir said the CHRO also didn’t follow the board’s orders to evaluate the performance of the employees.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017