• Disgruntled employees allege academic qualification required for the post lowered in 2021 to accommodate Imran Ahad
• HBFC chief says ‘smear campaign’ launched against him after he demanded hard work from employees

KARACHI: As the incumbent managing director and chief executive officer of the House Building Finance Company (HBFC) is set to complete his three-year term on April 18, disgruntled employees in the company allege that the CEO is ‘trying’ to secure a three-year extension without prior approval of the federal government, it has emerged.

Sources told Dawn that HBFC chief Imran Ahad was appointed in 2021 during the then government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf despite the fact that he did not possess a master’s degree required for the position of MD.

They said that in order to appoint Mr Ahad, the main criterion of a master’s degree published in an earlier advertisement was changed to graduation in another advertisement.

The sources said even trainee officer positions at the HBFC require candidates to have a master’s degree.

Mr Ahad’s three-year contract is set to expire on April 18 and he is reportedly trying to secure an extension through the HBFC Board of Directors using the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Act as a justification. Mr Ahad did not outrightly denied that he was interested in an extension.

The sources said that it would be a clear violation of the established rules and regulations as, traditionally, appointments of the HBFC MD and their contract extensions require approval from the federal government.

According to rules, the HBFC chief executive “shall be appointed by the Board with the prior approval of the Federal Government. The Chief Executive shall be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge and experience in banking, preferably in the field of finance and economics in accordance with fit and proper criteria as laid down by State Bank of Pakistan from time to time.

“The Chief Executive shall be a whole time officer of the Company and shall be appointed by the Board for a period of three years, extendible for further term by the Board upon the advice of the Federal Government,” it added.

The sources said that salaries of regular HBFC employees had not been increased during his tenure, causing deep resentment among them.

Many disgruntled employees said the appointment of the HBFC chief had become controversial from the beginning and in an audit report it was mentioned that the “audit was of the view that the appointment of incumbent without fulfilment & observance of codal formalities and criteria reflected negligence and favouritism”.

They appealed to the authorities to halt the alleged illegal extension process and appoint a ‘qualified and capable’ individual to lead the HBFC.

HBFC chief denies allegations

When contacted, the HBFC chief denied all the allegations and said that these were part of a ‘smear campaign’ against him.

He said that some people in the company were behind this campaign as he demanded ‘performance’ and ‘hard work’ but such people did not want to come out of their ‘comfort zone’.

About change of educational criterion from a master’s to graduation for the appointment, he said he was not aware of any advertisement that had demanded a master’s from candidates for the post.

He said that only one advertisement was published in which graduation was required as the qualification for the post of the HBFC MD.

Without going into details about the allegation of ‘negligence and favouritism’ as mentioned in the audit report, he said whatever the issue there, the ministry of finance had “dealt with it”, and it had been resolved.

About renewal of his three-year contract, he said he was not trying to get an extension, but “if it is approved, it would be done with the approval of the ministry of finance”.

“According to the SOE Act, the Board is the approving body [for extension] and it is responsible to report to the ministry of finance,” he said.

Mr Ahad said that the HBFC had achieved ‘record financial progress’ during his tenure, which could not be digested by ‘some people’ who were levelling baseless allegations against him.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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