Senate body expresses reservations on proposed powers outlined in FGEHA Bill

Updated October 17, 2019

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Bill aims to permanently convert the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation into the FGEHA, which will retain the power to plan and acquire land for its housing projects. — Reuters/File
Bill aims to permanently convert the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation into the FGEHA, which will retain the power to plan and acquire land for its housing projects. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Housing and Works on Wednesday expressed reservations regarding amendments the Ministry of Housing has proposed to the Federal Government Employees Housing (FGEHA) Authority Ordinance in the shape of the FGEHA Bill 2019.

The bill aims to permanently convert the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation into the FGEHA, which will retain the power to plan and acquire land for its housing projects.

The housing authority, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Housing and Works, is a company with limited powers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

Bill to permanently convert housing foundation to authority will be taken up again in next housing and works standing committee meeting

The Senate committee met on Wednesday to discuss the FGEHA Bill, which would permanently convert the foundation into an authority, and decided to defer it to let committee members examine the bill in detail. The committee will take up the bill at its next meeting.

While discussing the bill, committee chair Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Mohammad Sahi said one of the amendments to the ordinance that has been included in the bill would give the authority’s director general absolute powers, which needs to be considered to prevent abuse of authority.

This July, President Dr Arif Alvi signed the FGEHA Ordinance 2019, establishing the authority for the purposes of planning and developing housing schemes for serving and retired government employees and other specified groups.

Following the ordinance’s promulgation, it is mandatory to now have a bill to this effect passed by both houses of parliament. The proposed bill has to be approved by the standing committees on housing and works in both houses so it can be passed in the Senate and National Assembly.

On Wednesday, the Senate committee discussing the bill also raised concerns regarding greater powers for the executive boards and the removal of the role of the governing bill, which was a part of the ordinance promulgated by the president.

Senator Sahi also asked about the five-year tax exemption extended to the authority under the proposed bill.

However, the committee decided to take up the bill again at its next meeting before giving its final recommendations.

Housing and Works Minister Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema told the committee the bill should be passed as soon as possible because the authority is supposed to provide houses to government employees.

The committee also discussed Estate Office recruitments, the abolition of the current mechanism to grant leases for commercial holdings, the status of rules to be framed to address issues involved in the allotment and retention of temporary accommodation and the construction of 50 to 60 rooms in the Federal Lodge, Quetta.

The senators were also briefed on occupation of accommodation in the Federal Government Servant Colony on Sariab Road, Quetta, and the increase in charges of touring officers’ accommodations.

The committee was informed that according to the Establishment Division’s directions, vacant posts in the Estate Office for grade one to four employees should be filled through balloting.

On the abolition of the mechanism to grant leases for commercial holdings, the committee was told that the mechanism that will now be adopted would be though open auction, granting the lease to the highest bidder.

The committee was also told that rules to address issues involved in the allotment and retention of temporary accommodation have been framed and are with the Cabinet Division.

On the construction of rooms in the Federal Lodge Quetta, Mr Cheema regretted that no such project could be taken up by the ministry because it is government policy to privatise all such properly. However, he said, the ministry will ensure all the rooms are liveable.

The committee also discussed the illegal occupation of government accommodation in the Federal Government Servant Colony on Sariab Road in Quetta and steps being taken to vacate the accommodation and resolve the issue amicably.

It was asserted that a policy must be formulated to regularise such lodgings around the country, and a report should be submitted to the committee within two months.

The housing ministry also admitted that the increase in fares for lodges for touring officers was unfair and would be reviewed.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019