The Senate Standing Committee on Privatization on Tuesday raised questions on the process of approval to auction the old Chancery Building at Washington D.C. owned by Pakistani Embassy. In the meeting ,as per the directions of the Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation, a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put attendance to brief the committee regarding auctioning of one the two buildings in Washington DC owned by the Pakistani Embassy. Mr Anwar, Director MoFA said that the Old Chancery building at Washington DC was sold to Abdul Hafeez Khan, a Pakistani-American who offered the highest bid of $7.1 million. He said that the Cabinet considered the summary moved by the Foreign Affairs Division and approved the recommendations of the Inter- Ministerial Committee (IMC) to sell one of the buildings. He said that the building was from 80s’ and a very old one. It was told that already a loan of 7 million dollars was taken for its renovation however it was later decided by the IMC, the only appropriate forum to decide the matter, to sell the property. The committee raised serious concerns on its approval without the consent and intervention of the Privatisation Commission, the official informed that a meeting was held in which relevant ministry of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Privatisation participated and in which the decision took place, however the Secretary Privatisation denied the fact that the Privatisation Commission was made a part of this approval at any stage. Committee feeling dissatisfied with the process of approval of auctioning of the building deferred the matter for further report and deliberations by the Foreign Ministry.
On Tuesday, a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Shammim Afridi here at Parliament House to discuss important agenda items pertaining to privatisation and sale and purchase deeds.
The committee as previously decided that since the property of Convention Centre Islamabad did not belong to CDA and was sole property of the Ministry of Interior, directed that the Ministry of Interior be summoned to give briefing on its privatisation, the additional Secretary Ministry of Interior put appearance and briefed on the matter. He said that Privatisation of Convention Centre is not an attractive option unless and until there is a structured alternative plan ready on its privatisation. He said that the convention centre Islamabad is an expensive property to keep and plan should be framed in a way that it is economically viable and the government has to bear no further cost. On the question of the Chairman Committee that whether or not, the Ministry of Interior wants to Privatise the Convention Centre the additional Secretary apprised the committee that a meeting has been in lined with the CDA on the essentials of the transaction structure to privatise Jinnah Convention Centre. It was apprised that the CDA will also brief on the investment required in public infrastructure such as provision of electricity, gas, water, solid and waste management and also indicate the extent of investment that may be required to be borne by the potential investor. The matter was deferred for further briefing and deliberations
The Committee also took briefing on the Privatization of PTCL and the outstanding payment of US$ 800 Million. It was briefed that as per the Sale Purchase Agreement (SPA), Etisalat made an upfront payment of US $ 1.4 billion in April 2006 against the total bid amount of US$ 2.538 billion. Whereas, the balance payment of US $ 1.2 billion to be paid in nine biannual instalments. It was briefed that Etisalat paid initial 3 instalments totalling US $ 400 million and has not paid any instalment since January 2008, and therefore a balance amount of US $ 800 million is still pending. It was briefed that the Privatization Commission held various high level meetings for an early resolution for the outstanding amount and efforts are underway to reach an amicable solution.
The committee also received briefing on Privatization of Discos in view of 13-memebers committee constituted by Prime Minster to transfers transfer the Power Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to the Provinces. It was briefed that the subject matter falls in the purview of the CCI accordingly; approval of the CCI is to be solicited for transfer of ownership of DISCOs to the Provincial Government based on subsequent agreements between the respectable Provincial and Federal Government. It was briefed that the transfer of the control of DISCOs to the respectable Provinces may be governed under the policy which is also required to be approved by the CCI. It was briefed that the draft summary for CCI has been circulated to water resources, Fiancé Division, Privatization Commission, Law and Justice Division, NEPRA and all Chief Secretaries of the respective Provinces for views and comments, which are awaited.
The meeting was attended by Senator Anwar Lal Dean, Senator Milvi Faiz Muhammad and Senator Rana Mehmood ul Hassan. Senior officials of the Privatization Commission, Power Division and other concerned departments were also in attendance.