ISLAMABAD: While the establishment division is busy enforcing civil service reforms, dealing with the ‘forced retirement’ of senior bureaucrats, audit objections to financial irregularities involving millions of rupees, and also facing multiple challenges within the department, the government has appointed Afzal Latif as new establishment secretary.
According to the notification issued by the establishment division, “Afzal Latif, a BS-22 officer of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), presently posted as Industries and Production Division Secretary, is transferred and posted as Establishment Division Secretary, from the date of joining and until further orders.”
Sources said while Mr Latif had ‘assumed’ the charge on May 15, which was a holiday, the notification was issued on May 17. The sources explained that Mr Latif had sought details of expenditures and other related issues from the sections concerned and on Monday, he sought a briefing from the additional secretaries and other senior officials.
Afzal Latif replaces Dr Ijaz as secretary
Mr Latif has worked as additional secretary in the establishment division before being posted as chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad. Known for taking stern stance on discipline, the senior officer was transferred from the CDA. During his four-month stint, however, he opposed the restoration of Grand Hyatt plot and defended CDA’s interest in various court cases particularly the agro-farm cases.
He faced pressure when the CDA launched an operation to retrieve state land from a property tycoon. The operation could not be completed due to different reasons.
According to the sources, besides Mr Latif, the names of Finance Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal and Science and Technology Secretary Dr Arshad Mehmood were also being considered for the position of establishment secretary.
Mr Latif has replaced Dr Ijaz Munir, who has been appointed Rector of the National School of Public Policy at a monthly salary of about Rs1.5 million.
The change of command has been made at a time when the establishment division is being criticised for being ‘unfair’ with the senior bureaucrats who are facing ‘forced retirement’ under the directory retirement rules.
Although the Federal Public Service Commission chairman heads the committee that examines performance of 1,300 bureaucrats, since all the exercise is done and facilitated by the establishment division, the bureaucrats facing ‘forced’ retirement criticise this division.
Moreover, auditors pointed out financial irregularities worth million of rupees in the accounts of the establishment division. The establishment division had spent Rs20.3 million on stationery in 2017 and Rs21.5m in 2018, while it spent Rs6 million on purchase of the similar items in 2019. The report mentioned that during the “financial year 2016-17 to 2017-18 the establishment division incurred an expenditure of Rs41.8 million on account of purchase of stationery, computer stationery and other store items.” It observed that the purchases were made in an uneconomical manner without determining actual requirements after obtaining demands from the various sections.
It also observed that “during financial year 2018-2019, there was a substantial decrease in expenditure on purchase of stationery”. Audit held this a serious violation of General Financial Rules.
The audit objection was based on a complaint filed before the then establishment secretary, Munir. However, the section officer of establishment division who had raised the issue was posted out.
Also, Chief Finance Officer Mohammad Afzal who had confirmed the financial irregularity and urged the establishment secretary to hold an inquiry was transferred from the division. The inquiry in the matter has been pending since 2019 while the inquiry officer is proceeding abroad on a scholarship.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2021