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Ill-equipped Sindh Food Authority to set up two mobile testing labs

Updated November 24, 2018

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The death of two siblings in Karachi served as a wake-up call for the provincial government. — File
The death of two siblings in Karachi served as a wake-up call for the provincial government. — File

KARACHI: The death of two minor boys in a suspected food poisoning incident has exposed the performance of the Sindh Food Authority (SFA) and also served as a wake-up call for the provincial government, which is now aiming to reorganise the ill-equipped regulatory body, it emerged on Friday.

Officials said that the SFA, which does not have its own laboratory, had decided to prepare two mobile labs with all modern facilities and technology to meet the immediate requirements.

They said that a proposal to build a state-of-art laboratory was already in planning phase.

In the first phase, the authority is hiring 50 officers for its Karachi operations alone

“We are working to build two mobile laboratories which can help meet the current requirements of testing and all other formalities,” said SFA director (operations) Abrar Sheikh.

Recently, the SFA held various meetings that focused on serious loopholes, lack of resources and shortage of manpower.

Operations to be expanded to Larkana

While the authority is ready to hire technical people, it also decided to expand its operation to Larkana division within the next few months.

“During this fiscal year [ending June 2019] we will be expanding our operations to Larkana division and gradually move to other Sindh cities like Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah,” Mr Shaikh added.

Sindh Food Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal directed the SFA management to complete all legal formalities within shortest possible time.

A top official said that after a series of meetings and coordination between the institutions concerned, the authority was hopeful to start recruiting required number of professionals from next month.

50 food security officers to be appointed

Another major decision to revamp the authority is about adding qualified human resources and the officials hope the process would begin in the next few weeks.

“The good thing is that now we are going to fill the positions for our required manpower,” SFA director general Amjed Leghari told Dawn. “We have received the government’s nod and soon we will be looking for young university graduates having degree in food sciences. They will be recruited as food security officers in the first phase for our operations in Karachi.”

When asked about the number of such positions sanctioned by the government in the first phase, Mr Leghari said: “It would not be less than 50 officers in the first phase and the number can even be higher than this [50].”

The SFA chief said after the tragic incident, the authority had completed different tasks on a war-footing.

“We have finalised rules and regulations for the functioning of the authority,” said Mr Leghari. “We have opted [for] the laws and rules of the federal government to make it compatible with authorities in other provinces and keep the rules at par with federal standards, which apply [to] other businesses. It’s been done to facilitate the business owners.”

DCs to facilitate SFA’s teams in Karachi

He said in a recent meeting with the Karachi commissioner, deputy commissioners posted in different districts of the city were also assigned the job to facilitate the authority’s team during their visits/raids on restaurants and eateries within their remit.

“Once the organisational structuring is done for Karachi we would move to other cities and districts of the province. The change and effective performance of the authority would be visible to everyone very soon,” Mr Leghari claimed.

The SFA was made functional in April this year but it has so far been working in Karachi alone with an aim to gradually expand its domain to other districts.

A board of governors headed by the food minister was also established for the authority. The health and food secretaries are the BoG’s vice-chairman and convener, respectively.

Other members of the board include provincial secretaries of the culture, agriculture, social welfare, local government and public health engineering departments. Three nominated members of the Sindh Assembly and a representative of the chamber of commerce and industry are also part of the BoG.

Moreover, deputy commissioners posted in different districts of the province would also be members of the board.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018

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