Islamabad - Lok Virsa Board resolved several longstanding governance issues, including the approval of its service rules after a gap of 13 years.

In its 24th meeting held recently in the chairmanship of Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid, the board approved Lok Virsa’s service and financial rules. The institute was established in 1974 through a resolution and reconstituted in 2002 through an ordinance; however rules were never formulated. Old rules made in 1983 and a hotchpotch of government rules were used, making the governance of the institute not so professional.

After taking charge Dr Fouzia Saeed, the incumbent executive director, asked the board to give her six months for drafting proper service and financial rules for the institute. The board after thoroughly scrutinising the rules passed them. Lok Virsa now has proper rules after a gap of 13 years.

The board also made a major breakthrough by passing 5 regular posts for the Pakistan Monument Museum. Temporary, daily wage posts, for all the staff of the museum was a longstanding issue and the staff had been registering their protest for years. The board not only resolved a 12-year-old issue but also approved 6 other posts including a 19-grade post for director research and publications for efficient working of the issue.

Pension issue was another longstanding issue where the board came up with innovative solutions. The former senior management had given big raises in pension rates without authorisation of the board and gave itself promotions right before retirement to fatten their share of commutation and pension. The private pension fund created by Lok Virsa went belly up in 2014. When the current executive director joined the institute in February 2015, it was Rs 6,000,000 in debt and she immediately flagged the issue. Although the board had allowed the pension payments on gross basis, taking away all the unauthorised raises for the 43 pensioners, they were very concerned about the current 70 regular staff that had nothing left for their pension in the fund for the future.

Two separate solutions were proposed for the former and current staff. The current staff will be registered in a scheme where Lok Virsa will invest over Rs 20,000,000 and put the CP fund contributions of the staff they will get in future, into their own separate accounts and work out a decent pension payment. The former staff will have another scheme to ensure pension payments, the details of which are being finalised.

The board itself was a reform in governance, said Fouzia Saeed, “The board was formed after a gap of two and a half years. Senator Pervaiz Rashid supported constitution of an empowered Board.”

The board members include Jamil Yusouf from Karachi, Saleema Hashmi from Lahore, Khadim Husain from Peshawar, Zobaida Jalal from Quetta, Taqi Akhundzada from Skardu, Farooq Qaiser from Islamabad and Deputy Financial Advisor Iftikhar Janjua. It is chaired by the Minister of Information Senator Pervaiz Rashid with Secretary Saba Mohsin as the vice chair.

The minister at the conclusion of the meeting appreciated the work of Lok Virsa and said that culture is important for every civilised society. He assured the board that he would facilitate increase in Lok Virsa’s budget for the next year and provide full support in promotion of culture.