LAHORE - The board of management of Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA), violating the law and the CM directive, has forwarded the summary to the S&GAD, seeking approval to the service rules for the employees without getting them approved from the authority, The Nation learnt on Thursday.

Sources privy to the development disclosed that the board of management, besides ignoring the Service Rules Sub-Committee of the Authority, comprising three MPAs, Mian Muhammad Rafique, Arshad Khan Lodhi and Samina Noor Hayat, did not call the 47th meeting of the authority. It was also told that not a single meeting of the Pida’s Service Rules (SRC) Sub-committee had so far been convened.

Punjab Irrigation Minister Yawar Zaman, however, claimed the authority had duly approved the service rules at the 46th meeting. Irrigation Secretary Hassan Iqbal who also holds additional charge of the managing director of the Authority was not available for comments on the issue.

As per the minutes (available with this paper) of the last (46th) Pida meeting held on October 7, 2013, though it was attended by the members, including the irrigation minister and Pida chairman, P&D chairman, former members & MPAs, secretaries to the finance, irrigation and agriculture departments, the house did not give approval to the service rules. It only allowed the Authority to refer the rules to the Service Rules Committee in the Regulation Wing of S&GAD for review and comments.

The letter written to Regulation Wing of S&GAD noted, “In view of the approval of the SNE, the Pida (Appointment and Conditions of Service) Rules were prepared and referred to Service Rules Committee in the Regulation Wing of S&GAD after the approval of Authority at its 46th meeting held on October 7, 2013. The meeting of the SRC (S&GAD) was held on November 12, 2013, and it was advised that the Irrigation Department should submit a revised comparative draft of the proposed rules titled “Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority 2013” Rules along with relevant documents to enable the Regulation Wing, S&GAD, to place the matter before the Service Rules Committee (SRC) for consideration.”

It added: “Now the Regulation Wing of S&GAD has advised that in case of autonomous bodies, the service rules may be submitted direct to the competent authority for approval.”

The letter further said the approval of Pida (Appointment and Conditions of Service) Rules is mandatory to initiate the recruitment process. Since the provincial government has imposed a ban on fresh recruitments, grant of extension in favour of the existing contract staff till the completion of recruitment process is required, it added.

It was also requested that the Pida Rules 2013 be approved and ban on fresh recruitments be relaxed for recruitment of new staff in the PIDA. The extension of the existing contractual staff till March 31, 2014, or completion of recruitment process, whichever is earlier, was also sought.

Responding to the plea, the CM Secretariat wrote to the Finance Department on January 22, seeking views of the FD on the Stance of the Regulation Wing of S&GAD that the cases of autonomous bodies do not fall under its purview.

The Finance Department, on February 4, 2014, responding to the query, observed that Section 4 of the act provides that affairs of the Authority shall be carried out by the BoM under the control and guidance of the Authority. In para 88, the FD also wrote, “The administrative department may be advised to place the draft of Pida Service Rules at a meeting of the BoM for deliberation before its approval by the Authority and subsequently by the government.”

The FD also noted: “Minutes of the 46th meeting, referred to by the administrative department, do not suggest that the Pida Rules have been discussed and approved by the Authority. However, the meeting decided to refer the same to Regulation Wing S&GAD for review and comments.” Regulation Wing of S&GAD may be co-opted by the BoM for any guidance and technical assistance, the FD opined and forwarded the same to the CM office.

The CM approved Para 88 and forwarded it to the Authority. Responding to it, the Pida MD on February 22 wrote that the service rules were submitted after due deliberation and clearance by the Authority. The service rules are being submitted through the regulation secretary and the law secretary to have their view point and feedback, if any, he added.

A Pida officer, requesting anonymity, said that since the case for the contract employees’ regularisation was pending with the Lahore High Court, the plan of appointing new staff was against the law.

He also threatened to challenge the new service rules which were framed and forwarded by the incompetent ‘board of management’ ignoring the Service Rules Sub-Committee of the Authority.

The change of eligibility criteria for new recruitments had added to the assumptions that the administration wanted to sack the existing staff at every cost, he said. He said even after the Regulation Wing of S&GAD, the FD and the CM office returned the case with advice. Pida Secretary Afzal Anjum Toor who also holds additional charge of general manager of the authority failed to convene the BoM or Service Rules sub-committee meeting to get the SRs approved. A member of the Service Rules Committee confirmed that no meeting of the committee had so far been convened.

It is expected that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would take cognisance of the apprehensions of the existing staff as well as violations of the rules by the BoM.