ISLAMABAD, Nov 2: The federal government has failed to fulfil the commitment it had made before the Supreme Court in April to appoint a suitable person as chief executive officer of Pakistan Steel Mills “within a couple of days” because of a tussle between the federal ministries as the country’s largest integrated industrial unit stands on the verge of shutdown.

“A comprehensive report also be furnished qua evidence collected so far against Riaz Lalljee and Al-Abbas Group as allegedly pivotal role has been played by them in the scam,” a three-judge SC bench had said in a short order on April 28 after the government assured it that the post of CEO would be filled in a couple of days.

An official at the Ministry of Industries and Production confirmed on Wednesday that the government had also not submitted to the court the required investigation report.

The Federal Investigation Agency had informed the court that hectic efforts were in hand to prepare a comprehensive audit report and an interim report had been furnished (to the federal government). The FIA had also said the Interpol authorities had been approached and every effort was being made to catch the culprits and recover the looted money of Rs26 billion.

No progress has since been made on this front as well.

Officials said the government had received 13 applications for the post of CEO. Six candidates have appeared for interview.

The cabinet committee on restructuring of public sector corporations, led by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, shortlisted three persons -- Faizullah Abbasi, Major (retd) Mohammad Farooq and Mohammad Asad -- for the CEO job. But they were opposed by Minister for Industries and Production Anwar Ali Cheema, who now wants the government to get rid of the loss-making organisation through privatisation because of overstaffing, incompetent management and loss of productivity.

The present government regularised more than 4,700 daily-wage workers of PSM about two years ago, significantly contributing to the overstaffing. The problem is now being regarded as one of the major causes of the crisis confronting the Still Mills.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Industries and Production had informed the PSM management in December last year that a meeting, jointly presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, had deliberated on a proposal for “outsourcing the management of PSM, along with an option of floating 10-20 per cent shares, to Chinese or Russian investors”. The proposal could not be implemented because of the ad hoc management at the mills.

EMPLOYEES’ WORRY: The Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers, a representative body of PSM officers, has written a letter to the Ministry of Industries and Production accusing the ad hoc management, its board of directors, the production ministry and the FIA of showing no will to bring the culprits to justice and recover the plundered money.

It said the auditor general’s audit observations regarding Rs39 billion embezzlement and misappropriation had not been taken seriously by the ministry, which had also failed to handle the accountability process relating to a loss of Rs29 billion and Rs23 billion liabilities in 2008-09 pilfered by PSM’s former chief Moeen Aftab Shaikh who had been dismissed by the prime minister for his alleged involvement in the corruption.

The association said the losses and liabilities of PSM had increased to Rs54 billion and Rs60 billion respectively as of September this year from Rs29 billion and Rs23 billion in 2008-09. It said the people identified by the FIA in its investigation report had not been nominated in FIRs.

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