LAHORE: In a surprising development, the federal government has appointed a chief operating officer of a private firm as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pakistan Railways Freight Transportation Company (PRFTC) despite knowing the fact that he, very recently on behalf of his company, prepared and submitted bids for getting the project on outsourcing of the railways’ freight wagons, business.
“He was also among various participants who attended pre-bid meetings on behalf of his companies. The recent one he attended was held on July 2,” an official said.
The appointment of Mr Jawaid Siddiqi as the CEO was approved in the meeting of the cabinet on Friday. He was associated with various subsidiaries of the group for over a decade in top managerial positions.
The PR is privatising its freight business to increase competition and make the loss-making state-owned enterprise financially viable.
“It seems that through induction of Mr Siddiqui in the PRFTC, monopoly of certain business groups is being surfaced in the Pakistan Railways — a strategically important department,” apprehended another source.
“It is a clear case of conflict of interest,” he said.
The source said the foreign investors were said that there won’t be a level playing field available for them after this appointment.
“The simple way to avert a conflict of interest and uphold the merit is to privatise the PRFTC as a public limited company, list/float its shares in the stock exchange and give equal opportunity to all.”
After this development, he said, the PRFTC people may throw any company ‘technically out of the race’ on the day when technical bids of all prequalified would be opened,” he maintained.
Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati defended the appointment of Mr Siddiqui.
“I own Jawaid Siddiqui, as we selected him after interviewing many candidates. We have found him one of the best for this position,” he said, confirming that his appointment letter would be issued very soon since the cabinet has approved his appointment.
Mr Swati said there was no issue related to conflict of interest since he is watching all things.
He said if the company where he (Siddiqui) has worked already, doesn’t give PR a suitable offer through competitive bidding, that will be out from the race.
“But if its bids are the highest, we will have no option but to award the project to them under the law,” the minister clarified.
About the possibility of monopoly, Mr Swati said: “We have 12,000 freight wagons. These all would not be given to one company alone, as we will distribute it among the winners/firms without any discrimination,” the minister maintained.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2021