What made Cambridge Analytica give three awards to HEC?

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  • Former chairman claims now-defunct company gave ‘good governance’ award to commission under his leadership

ISLAMABAD: Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, the recently retired Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman, claimed to have won the Global Good Governance (3G) Award for three consecutive years from Cambridge Analytica – a dubious company that gathered and sold online data for various purposes – during his tenure as the department’s chairman from 2014-18.

The revelation has raised many questions as to why the company – which remained in international news in the recent months for high-profile scandals before eventually shutting down on May 2 – has given him three consecutive awards.

The former HEC chairman in his CV, which he submitted to the four-member search committee tasked to select the new HEC chairman, mentioned that “HEC under his leadership won Cambridge Analytica’s Global Good Governance Recognition Award for three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018.”

Senior officials of the commission told Pakistan Today that Dr Mukhtar must explain for what purposes he got those awards despite the fact that the main governing body of the HEC had been absent throughout this period and the authority of the commission was continuously usurped by the chairman.

They said that this was the period during the life of HEC, since its inception in 2002, when the governance at HEC remained at its lowest point. The main governing body of the HEC called ‘The Commission’ was not in place and the chairman didn’t make any tangible efforts to get the commission in place so that he could, without any check on his acts, usurp the powers of the commission, they added.

“Most of the second to third-tier positions at HEC remain occupied by ad-hoc employees who have either been employed on a short-term basis, or on deputation from other institutions on the sole criterion of personal relations and loyalty,” they added.

Similarly, the officials said that the HEC remained embroiled in many other controversies including the dual-degree issue involving COMSATS, chairman’s unauthorised interference in the matters of Quaid-e-Azam University, Federal Urdu University, Karachi University and a whole range of other issues.

They expressed surprise that despite such abysmal performance by HEC, it could, during the same time, win a Global Good Governance Award not only once or twice but three times in a row.

“Has the chairman compromised the data of young men and women who study at our universities or has he provided some of the even more sensitive information to the company?” they asked.

They also said that the matter needs to be investigated thoroughly in order to save the nation from any possible embarrassment.

Despite repeated attempts, Dr Mukhar did not pick up the phone and neither replied to the text or WhatsApp messages. Similarly, HEC Executive Director Dr Arshad Ali also remained unavailable.