ISLAMABAD The top officials of the Commerce Ministry and the Chairman Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) may come under fire by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet that is scheduled to meet today. The committee is going to discuss the action to be taken against the TCP officials and importing firms for causing delay in the import of sugar that is likely to lead to a severe crisis in the month of Ramazan. The ECC, in its meeting held on July 20, had already shown serious concerns over the failure to take action against the senior officials of TCP and to black list the importing firms, which were alleged for delaying the import of sugar. According to the documents available with TheNation, the TCP had been given a two-month period of relaxation by the government with respect to applicability of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, 2004. Even though the TCP was facilitated to expedite the procurement process, it failed to meet the target. Therefore, stern action may be taken against the officials who failed to fulfil their assigned responsibilities. The TCP even failed to black list the firms, who did not honour their commitment. Further, well-placed official sources informed that during the Ministerial Committee meeting on July 26,2010, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Azam Khan Swati alleged that Chairman TCP, Anjum Bashir and other high officials were responsible for the sugar crisis, and thus needed to be removed. However, sources also informed that in the same meeting, the Chairman TCP had accused the Ministry of Finance for not providing Rs 42 Billion on account of subsidy on different commodities. He alleged that this was as also a cause for the delay in the import of sugar. Moreover, documents also disclosed that the ECC had decided in January 2010 to import 1.2 million tons of sugar through the TCP by June 30, 2010. Of the said quantity, about 264,000 tons of sugar has actually arrived so far. 68,000 tons would be imported before July 31,2010 and 108,667 tons shipments are due by end August. It was further added that three bids for 200,000 tons of sugar import had been dropped, leaving a shortfall of about 759,333 tons. It was reported that presently in the private sector, 760,000MT sugar is available in Punjab, 297,000 MT in Sindh, 49,700MT with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 12000MT in Balochistan. Besides, out of the sugar imported by TCP, 100,000 MT will be sold to Provincial Governments at Rs 56 per kg, during the coming holy month of Ramazan. It was further added that the monthly consumption of sugar was around 300,000 tons. It is pertinent to mention here that the ECC in its meeting held on June 29, 2010 had constituted a Ministerial Committee, which was mandated to review the procurement process of the sugar by TCP, and to evolve an oversight mechanism to make the process transparent. The said Committee was assigned to identify any violation that may have occurred during the import of sugar by TCP and to review the current position of sugar stocks. Again, it was the responsibility of that Committee to suggest measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential consumer goods to the people during Ramazan. So, with respect to the ECC decision, meeting of the Committee was held on 2nd July 2010. The Committee observed that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Rules 2004, especially the rules regarding not allowing the 'other bidders to match with the 'lowest bidder to make up the rest of the tendered quantity, affected the tendering process and jeopardized the whole process of the timely import of commodities by the TCP and therefore, needed to be reviewed. After detailed discussions, this Committee made recommendations that are likely to be presented and discussed in the next ECC, scheduled for today. This Ministerial Committee recommended that the rules impeding the timely and cost effective import of commodities, by the TCP, need suitable modification. It was also suggested that the TCP should complete the procurement of the tendered quantity of 8,25,000 tons of sugar, for which all procedures stand completed. For the import of the remaining quantity of 375,000 tons, of the total 1.2 million tons, the private sector may be given incentives, as it could hasten the process of delivery of sugar stocks in the country. Even for this quantity government-to-government offers may also be considered by the ECC in order to improve the position of stocks. Further, the Provincial Governments may be offered the imported sugar at the purchase price by the TCP, for its disposal to the retailers to augment open market supplies. The Provincial Governments may also be asked to take pre-emptive administrative measures, like ensuring display of the price list of the essential commodities, imposing fines, taking other legal and punitive measures under the relevant laws and to check the tendency of the profiteering and hoarding, well before the holy month of Ramazan. It is also recommended that the Provincial Governments may be asked to ensure the payments of the outstanding dues of growers from Mill owners. The State Bank of Pakistan may play its due role in ensuring that these payments are made.