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Senate Finance body endorses partial amendments in Privatization Commission Act 2013

Senate Finance body endorses partial amendments in Privatization Commission Act 2013

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue here Thursday endorsed amendments in the Privatization Commission Amendment Bill 2013 introduced by Senator Sughra Imam.
However, the committee postponed deliberations some points regarding developing mechanism for scrutiny of the bidders interesting to take part in investing in state owned enterprises (SOEs).
Secretary Privatization Commission Sardar Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera proposed that issue should be discussed in the presence of representatives from all the concerned ministries and divisions.
The Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee met here with Convener Senator Talha Mehmood in the chair to discuss and prepare report on the proposed amendments in the Privatization Commission Act 2013.
Besides the Convener, Senators including Sughra Imam, Osman Saifullah, Chairman Privatization Commission Muhammad Zubair along with representatives from other concerned ministries were also present in the meeting who held detailed discussion on the said amendments.
Senator Sughra had proposed declaration of clash of interest of every supposed bidder in the investment of SOEs as compulsory. On this issue, both the higher officials of Privatization Commission observed that similar laws were already in place.
However, Secretary Privatization Commission said that his organization had no objection in the inclusion of this clause in the existing law. At this committee approved the said clause which would be brought before the main committee and then after approval would be laid before the Upper House of the Parliament. On the subject binding every bidder to get national security clearance certificate from the government prior to entering in the bidding process, both the convener and Privatization Commission were of viewpoint that it was not possible and equal to forcing foreign investors to flee from Pakistan.
“Main question is which authority may issue the said certificate,” Muhammad Zubair observed, saying that if officials of security agencies would start questioning process from interested investors, no investor would ever tend to invest in Pakistan.
“Moreover, to achieve the required objectives, amendment must be proposed in the policy for investment not in the Privatization Commission Act 2013,” he added, saying, “Then the Board of Investment (BoI) will contest the proposed amendments and Privatization Commission will follow the amended guidelines of Investment Policy”.
However, the Secretary Privatization Commission was of the view that phrase National Security required to be defined in terms of business and corporate affinity. He suggested the mover Senator Sughra Imam to hold consult National Institutions to get the term National Security defined. However, the committee observed that government should keep SOEs of strategic importance with it, no matter if they were not profit earning, they should not be privatized. At this the committee deferred deliberations on this subject till next Tuesday.
During due diligence on the second amendment regarding scrutinizing the people behind the bidders prior to the completion of privatization process or signature on the agreement, the Privatization Commission was of the viewpoint that although law did not permit investment by any investor hailing from India or Israel, however, it was impossible to investigate the corporate company behind every bidder.
“Currently, the procedure in practice is that Privatization Commission share data of every bidder with Ministry of Defence, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and security agencies and process applications after getting clearance,” Muhammad Zubar observed.
Moreover, he said that composition of Board of Directors, Company profile and other information were also shared with the aforesaid organizations as well as pasted on the website of Privatization Commission and anyone could point out any persona non -grata. But he said that it was a matter of fact that every American Company had hundreds of hundreds shareholders and among them Israeli and Indian shareholders could also be present, therefore it was impossible to oust any company from bidding process on this justification. At this the committee suggested the mover to come with refined amendments after holding discussion with Privatization Commission and other stakeholders.