LHC moved over CM’s privatisation of government entity

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LAHORE: A citizen has filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) here on Thursday against the approval granted by Punjab Chief Minister Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif for converting the Punjab Mineral Development Corporation into a private limited company.

A local bar member Naveed Khan filed the petition through advocate Chaudhary Shoaib Saleem. The Punjab chief minister, mines and minerals department secretary and the chief secretary have been impleaded as respondents in the petition.

Chaudhary Shoaib argued that the high court has already seized a petition of the constitution of 56 companies in the province of Punjab and more than 10 companies have been closed during the recent past either due to illegalities or inefficiencies.

He further argued that the corporation that was established under the Punjab Minerals Development Corporation Act 1975 and had more than 400 regular employees, never received any budget from the Punjab government since its inception, instead it is generating revenue for the government. During the financial year of 2016-17, the corporation has paid a sales tax of Rs 65.352 million, an income tax of 16.886 million, EOBI of Rs 3.104 million and royalty of Rs 30.274 million to the provincial government.

The advocate said that the CM approved the conversion of the corporation into a private limited company in a meeting held on 27 October 2017, just to accommodate his cronies and favourite bureaucrats as head of the companies who are already being paid in millions.

He argued that as per Section 18 of the Punjab Mineral Corporation Act 1975, the corporation has the mandate to form and establish companies to manage and run the projects established by it but the chief minister is held bent on constituting a new company by converting the corporation into a private limited company against the constitutional scheme.

Moreover, he said that all the powers regarding financial matters have to be exercised by the local government as per the Local Government Ordinance 2001 and the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 but the companies are operating as independent entities in violation of the local laws.

Advocate Shoaib further argued that the auditor general of Pakistan has the constitutional mandate of conducting an audit of state-owned organizations but companies registered with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) have to get themselves audited internally by hiring a private audit firm which has limited the constitutional scope of the auditor general of Pakistan.

“Wastage of public money in the constitution of Punjab public companies has also marred the real concept of democracy which provides social justice and facilities to the public at large,” he said.

The petitioner implored the court to declare the conversion of the corporation into a private limited company as illegal and violative to the constitutional scheme and the Punjab Mineral Corporation Act 1975. The petition will be taken up by Justice Shahid Karim today (Friday).