How Managing Director of NEECA brought Pakistan’s most important organization to the brink of collapse
In current times, Pakistan is going through a serious economic crisis, which is impacting every section and sector of the country. A weak economy is also a grave threat to national security and political stability.
If we take a look at history, we can see that economic instability has led to division among nations, one example is the USSR in 1991. In recent times, energy prices in Pakistan have skyrocketed due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Commodities like pulses, rice, ghee, wheat, etc. have reached an all-time high, and are beyond the reach of common people.
According to State Bank, our total imports in 2021-22 were $76 billion, and exports were $32 billion, meaning there was a $39 billion deficit. The country imported petroleum products worth $18.7 billion, making up 26% of the total imports. Hence, saving energy and using it with care can be beneficial with time. This energy is used for generating electricity, agriculture, industry, and domestic use. To save energy, Pakistan, with the help of USAID, launched an organization in 1985 named ‘Enercon.’
Later in 2016, under an Act of Parliament, NEECA was formed, into which Enercon was merged. The primary object of NEECA is proper energy utilization and energy saving. The authority was working under the Ministry of Energy (Power Division) but in 2022, during the PTI regime, the authority was transferred to the Ministry of Science and Technology. In the past few months, since the dollar and oil prices have risen significantly, the government’s focus has shifted to energy preservation.
Now, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the important institution of the country.
What’s happening in NEECA?
In 2018, an advertisement was placed in the newspaper for the MD post of NEECA, which required ten years of experience in the energy sector, as per the NEECA Act. However, keeping the merit aside, with the help of the then Minister of Energy, Umar Ayub, Dr. Sardar Mohazzam was illegally made the MD of the organization.
Dr. Mohazzam did not have ten years of experience in the field of energy. Another primary factor to filter in is that Umar Ayub belongs to Haripur and Dr. Moazzam to Abbottabad. Considering Dr. Mohazzam’s academic background, it’s clear that he was not eligible to be the Managing Director (MD) of NEECA. He has a Masters’s degree in Computer Science from Quaid-e-Azam University and a Ph.D. degree from the United States in the field of Public Policy. Hence, it is clear from the CV that he submitted to get a job at NEECA that he lied about teaching in the Department of Government and Public Policy as an Assistant Professor at NDU from 2004 to 2011. In reality, in 2004, NDU did not have a public policy department.
According to his own CV, he has experience of 7 years in the energy sector, which is 3 years less than the required 10 years of experience, as he was hired on a 3-year contract in violation and contempt of a Parliamentary Act. A Writ Petition in the Peshawar High Court (W.P. 2954-P/2021) was filed against his illegal appointment, which is still pending. Likewise, another case was filed against him in the Sindh High Court (Suit No. 322 of 2022).
Renovation of NEECA and financial irregularities
Now, let’s dive into financial irregularities. The budget for NEECA for the year 2021-22 was Rs. 17.5 crore which was given mainly for salaries of staff sanctioned in the gazette notified Service Regulations. However, only 2.3 crores was spent on Salaries and the remaining was spent by the Managing Director on massive procurements and renovation of the building. Roughly about 13 crore Rs was spent on these activities and the Ministry of Science & Technology objected to the unauthorized reappropriation of the budget. Since it is a government building, therefore, PWD and CDA should have been taken on board for any renovation and construction work. On the contrary, an advertisement for the renovation of NEECA was issued on 16th February 2022, and tenders were called for by March 7th, 2022.
However, in April, a company named ‘Dynamic Interiors’ was chosen for the job, which is a sole proprietorship. The company was paid the full amount before 30th June 2022, after completing only 10% of the work. The details of this are as follows:
|1 crore, 36 lakhs
|3 crore, 26 lakhs
When an audit was launched by Science and Technology into financial irregularities, two things happened. One is that NEECA MD, Dr. Mohazzam, and Secretary of Science and Technology Ghulam Mohammad Memon, both left for a one-week training of lab technicians in Bangkok. In total, eight people from Pakistan participated in the training, out of which six belonged to the technical sector, making it difficult to assess the desire of the two ‘unrelated’ individuals to become lab technicians. The two traveled in Thai Airlines’ business class, which is also against government travel policy and austerity measures issued by Finance Ministry.
Trip to Bangkok meant for Lab Technicians – Aug 8-11, 2022
NEECA’s building caught fire
According to reliable sources, the audit stopped immediately after the training. Another important thing that happened was that NEECA’s building caught fire.
On September 9th, 2022, it was at the time of Friday prayers, and the entire staff was out of the office, except for Dr. Mohazzam and his two special officers. The three did not go to Friday prayers that day, but they regularly offered Friday prayers throughout the year.
Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad also apologized for the forensic audit in its letter, dated 10th November 2022, and wrote in the report that:
“However, the details of the cause of fire cannot be determined as the evidence available on-site is insufficient to make comprehensive report, therefore, no forensic analysis of the site was carried out.”
It is concerning that the investigation of the fire incident was done by Dr. Mohazzam, and no proper action was taken by Science and Technology.
International organizations offered assistance to Pakistan for energy saving, for which an ‘Energy Conservation Fund’ was created which is registered with SECP as a Section 42 Company. The CEO of ECF is MD NEECA as per rules. Thus he has dual responsibilities. Under the law, the balance sheet of ECF has to be published regularly.
The grants received from different donors are kept in different bank accounts and it was meant to be utilized for energy conservation programs. Dr. Mohazzam being a signatory for the issuance of cheques used the funds for unrelated and even personal expenses. There are many such instances that can be easily determined if a thorough investigation is done, but one such example is about the trip to Bangkok of the Managing Director and Secretary for which ECF funds were used from Habib Bank’s Rizwan Centre Islamabad Branch.
On 18th, October 2022, Secretary of Science and Technology, Ghulam Memon sent the summary of Dr. Sardar Mohazzam’s tenure extension to the Prime Minister’s office, in which it was written that he got the approval of the first energy-saving policy from the board. In reality, the policy was presented to the NEECA board on 31st August 2022 by the DG Policy of NEECA.
On 6th February 2023, the Prime Minister of Pakistan expressed his displeasure with NEECA’s performance, hence it was said that extending the tenure of such a person against the policy is incomprehensible. Now, the question is whether NEECA and Pakistan can afford such irregularities and experiments in this critical economic situation. It is mandatory that FIA, NAB, and SECP take action against these financial irregularities, rather than conducting air operations against political opponents.
It is said that an influential person in PM House, who has previously served in the top position of the Planning Commission, is still giving Dr. Mohazzam full support, who has brought an important institution to the brink of collapse. The organization, whose primary goal was to save energy, is distributing all of the money in this regard to his family, and relatives in Abbottabad. Along with looting government money, money from donors and international financial institutions, like World Bank, WWF, GZ, and ADB, is also being spent on personal gain.
What are your views on this? Share in the comments bar below.