ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has opened investigations into the alleged illegal appointments and payment of salaries to ghost employees at the state-owned news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).

The APP management had also filed a complaint against some of the employees, alleging that they were involved in releasing payments to ‘ghost’ employees.

Applications were filed against senior APP officials, with hearing regarding inquiry into 95 illegal appointments held at the anti-corruption circle of FIA on Wednesday.

A complaint was filed by Moazzam Khokhar, special assistant in the APP, against Managing Director Asim Khichi, accusing him of illegally appointing around 100 people.

Apart from the FIA, Mr Khokhar also forwarded the complaint to the chairman PM’s Inspection Commission as well as information secretary, who is also the APP Board chairman.

The complainant highlighted that not only were the appointments made in the APP during the ban period, but the laid-down procedure such as open advertisements was also not adopted.

He further alleged that most of the persons appointed were either relatives of the MD or belonged to his native area.

The complainant has attached some appointment letters and demanded the removal of Mr Khichi alleging that his actions had resulted in significant financial loss to the state agency.

On the other hand, responding to a query, Mr Khichi acknowledged that he had made around 42 appointments on contractual basis, claiming that all the personnel appointed were already working in the project initiated to establish the agency’s social media wing.

“The project was set to expire in June 2023 and those working in the social media wing of APP were told in March 2023 to accept a new appointment letter with reduced salary as their services under the project would expire in the coming months,” Mr Khichi said.

He presented documents, which included the APP Board’s approval that empowered the MD to hire personnel on contractual basis.

“The complainant against me will only show 35 to 40 appointment letters because the list of 100 as claimed by them was fake; they had not even provided the list of 100 persons employed by me to the FIA or any other forum,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in the FIA acknowledged that the complaint lodged by the APP management included the name of Moazzam Khokhar as well as 19 employees and officers accused of illegally hiring 20 people who although were getting salaries from APP, did not have appointment letters or personal files with the state agency.

The complaint made to the FIA by the APP management in October 2023 was based on the report of a fact-finding committee on illegal appointments, and it pointed out that Arshad Majeed, manager account APP, Islamabad disbursed salaries to these ghost employees through open cheques.

The inquiry report highlighted that among these ghost employees was the son of Arshad Majeed and the FIA had been requested to help recover the illegal amount paid to these persons.

Responding to the query, a senior FIA official said that after completion of the inquiry, FIRs would be lodged against those involved in misuse of power and malpractices.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2024

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