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PESHAWAR: The appointment of a manager to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company has become a bone of contention between the government-owned company’s management and board of directors.

The board’s human resources committee had objected to manager (legal) Zair Nawaz’s appointment in Feb this year and sought his immediate termination declaring the hiring process earlier last year ‘non-competitive and non-transparent’.

The committee’s report about the hiring of Mr Nawaz was presented before the board in its April 30 meeting.

In a harsh rebuke to the company’s management, the board declared that the manager (legal) selection process, arbitrary decisions to hold second interview, and the subsequent tampering with human resource records made the entire exercise non-transparent and non-competitive, void and ab initio.

BoD seeks removal of manager (legal) over hiring anomalies

“Mr Nawaz, while still being on probation, has also committed misconduct, fraud and unprofessional behaviour in a blatant violation of his employment contract,” noted the minutes of the board meeting, a copy of which is available with Dawn.

The BoD also directed the HR committee’s chairman to formally ask the company’s chief executive officer to explain his position about the ‘hiring of the manager (legal), tampering with official record with his permission and subsequent facilitation to Mr Nawaz to use official counsel for personal gains’.

In light of the board’s directions, committee chairman Wahajul Siraj also issued a four-page letter to the CEO on May 10 seeking that explanation.

Following the Nawaz hiring fiasco, the BoD decided to direct the CEO to formulate a detailed recruitment mechanism for all posts of the company.

The BoD has issued specific instruction from qualification for the post to short-listing and criteria for inviting external subject experts in interview panels and asked the company management to get the criteria approved from the HR committee and the policy will be applicable to all future appointments in the company.

“Any future recruitment in violation of above will be considered illegal and void,” the minutes read.

According to the minutes, the post of the manager (legal) was advertised in July 2018, while interview of the shortlisted candidates took place on Aug 20, 2018, by a selection committee of five members, including three internal and two external subject experts.

Six people appeared in the interview and Mr Nawaz, one of them, stood third on the merit list.

Later in Sept, the company’s executive management committee decided to re-interview the top five candidates. Another selection committee interviewed the candidates and placed Mr Nawaz on top of the merit list with 64.8 marks.

The board was informed that out of 60 marks, Mr Nawaz was awarded 33.8 for qualification and 30 for experience but he after joining the company took the file from the assistant manager (HR) on the CEO’s orders and changed the marks to 39 in another mark sheet in an act of forgery.

“Both marks sheets are available on company HR record and assistant manager HR had brought this on record in his written email,” the minutes said, adding that the board members expressed shock at the act of forgery by Mr Zair Nawaz.

The board was informed that Mr Nawaz had also engaged the company’s lawyer, Ashraf Ali Khattak, for litigation against the HR committee and BoD, which amounted to a bizarre case of misconduct that Mr Nawaz hired a counsel, get him paid from company accounts for official cases and then engaged the same lawyer to plead his two personal cases against the company.

“This conflict of interest, besides being highly unethical and unprofessional on part of Mr Ashraf Ali Khattak, speaks the scale of mockery that manager legal had made of a reputable organization,” the minutes read.

The board also declared the CEO’s conduct in the entire exercise ‘compromised’ and noted that the company’s chief took sides with the manger (legal) by trying to protect his illegal acts, making mockery of laws, rules and regulations, causing the organisation financial losses and harming its reputation.

In a statement, the company insisted that there was no confrontation between the board and the CEO and that both were working in close coordination.

It added that the difference of opinion in some meetings didn’t amount to confrontation.

“No notices have been served to the CEO,” it said, adding that the CEO and board have accomplished many things together, including the signing of Rashkai special economic zone concessional agreements.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2019