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July 6, 2020

Irregularities in LWMC hiring process found


July 6, 2020

LAHORE: Irregularities and wrongdoings were found in the recruitment process of Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), revealed the fact finding committee, which however, failed to fix the responsibility.

Copy of the fact finding committee is available with The News. This committee was constituted to find out the truth behind allegations of corruption and favouritism in hiring of sanitary workers and other staffers. However, sources said that in the report of fact finding committee it was admitted that irregularities were done but at the same time who did these irregularities was not named.

The report said that recruitment of manpower process of Lahore Waste Management Company (hereinafter referred as LWMC) started after the approval of LWMC BOD. Initially, the application process was started against advertisement published in national newspapers, to recruit 4,731 sanitary workers for carrying out waste collection activity in the city (in the areas of international contractors) and second advertisement to hire 2,421 workers of different categories who were previously hired through LWMC third party labour contractor.

The process of application receiving was carried out until 7 May, 2020. The applications were entered in LWMC - database through a software. About 24,300 applications received in different categories. The management preferred to hire the officials at first stage/phase, who were already serving either through third party labour contractor or at indirect payroll of LWMC.

On 27 June, 2020 daily 'The News' published a press clipping titled "Mass recruitment scam surfaces in LWMC" and Chairman BOD LWMC while taking its a cognizance constituted a fact finding committee (hereinafter referred as “committee”), vide office order No LWMC/CH/652 dated 27 June, 2020 comprising of Deputy Chief Executive Officer LWMC (Convener), Chief Internal Auditor (Member) and Manager Legal Affairs (Secretary).

The scope and mandate of committee was to probe into the allegations on hiring process and was required to submit report to Chairman BOD LWMC, within three days, which was extended for further two days.

The first meeting of committee was held on 29 June, 2020. Subsequently, questionnaire was served on all alleged officials on 29 June, 2020 and in response, alleged officials submitted a consolidated reply with evidences within stipulated time frame.

The committee in consultation with other sections, analysed, got their point of view and took following points into account to find lapses (if any): (a) Baseline of cutoff date i.e. 31 March, 2020 followed / not followed (b) Issuance and withdrawal of 62 appointment orders, issued by HR/ER, to new workers; (c) Quality of scrutiny of applicants inducted by LWMC; (d) Workers who were present till 31 March, 2020 and still working but not considered for new recruitment / not issued offer letters; (e) Category of workers changed by HR/ER. (f) Workers who got status quo from judicial forums, and their present job status, (g) Data entry of applicants in software.

Besides, in order to inquire the matter in fair and prudent manner, a pro forma was shared with all user sections of LWMC and they were asked to submit data / record in this regard. In response manpower data / record from following sections was furnished in soft and hard forms, including operations, landfill/dumpsite/Mehmood Booti sites, Lahore Ring Road Authority, Transfer Stations & Lahore Metro Bus, Multan Metro Bus, MIS, Compost Plant and ER & HR.

Apart from that, the committee directed heads of sections / project teams to verify the certificates / degrees of workers, at their disposals and to get their original degrees/certificates checked manually to ensure transparency. During the course of fact finding proceedings, two complaints were received against Waqas (Assistant ER) by two workers namely Mohsin Ali (SW-844) and Zeeshan Ali. The committee reviewed the contents of complaints and proposed formation of a separate inquiry committee to investigate and look into the allegations against the official. If competent authority wants this committee to inquire into the matter, the same may please be sent back.

Notice for one-on-one interview was issued to all the alleged officials on 02 July, 2020 and the alleged officials individually appeared before the Committee, for personal hearing at given time. Members apprised the alleged officials that cognizance was taken on account of alleged violation of rules and regulations, executed during recruitment process.

In its fact findings, the committee said that in light of the aforementioned facts and figures and perusal of available evidences/ records/statements, it concluded that baseline of cutoff date i.e. 31 March, 2020 followed / not followed, it was stated by Arsalan Shahid, Assistant Manager (ER) that he was not aware with the cutoff criteria (ie 31 March, 2020) and came to know the cutoff criteria two days before hearing of committee. It reveals that HR/ER was working without keeping the cutoff month into consideration which was envisaged in each noting portion submitted to CEO LWMC for approval for each category. No concrete evidence was found / submitted regarding sharing of cutoff date CG and other terms and conditions of approved criteria duly approved by the CEO LWMC with sections/ departmental heads.

It added that in violation of approved criteria, 74 candidates were issued offer/appointment letters, who were not present at LWMC payroll by 31 March, 2020. For Lahore and Multan Metro Bus projects, 62 workers were issued offer letters without considering the baseline criteria. However, all such offer letters were withdrawn subsequently. The letters were issued even to those applicants who were never at LWMC payroll by any means.

Scrutiny of applicants conducted by LWMC revealed that overall quality of scrutiny was not up to the mark as certain lapses were found and even HR/ER team admitted that the same happened due to overwork. In certain cases, HR/ER officials claimed to have acted upon the scrutiny done by sections/wings (e.g. Metro Bus Projects), which is main culprit for deterioration of the matter(s) and it was never allowed by the competent authority to delegate the authority without prior approval.

The report maintained that workers who were present until 31 March, 2020 and still working but not considered for new recruitment/not received offer letters and as per claim of Operation Wing, there is likelihood that a few workers, who met the criteria, have yet not been issued offer letters by HR/ER so far. However, HR/ER has denied any such claim and replied that those workers might not have applied in response to the advertisements.

The report claimed that workers category was changed by HR/ER and it is ostensible from statements / record that categories of several workers were changed. Approval from competent authority was not produced for the same. The report claimed that data entry about applicants in software and as per evidence provided by MIS section, data has been entered in the software until 29 June, 2020 and last 100 entries were made from 17 June, 2020 to 29 June, 2020. It shows there were no pending applicants during those 12 days, but due to mala-fide, the applications were received and entered into the system.

The report also found slackness in delivering offer letters, which sources said comes under the definition of corruption. It was revealed in the fact finding process that scrutiny of certificates/degrees of recruited staff's credentials were not made by the HR/ER. As per evidences in MBS Lahore, which was taken as a pilot project several anomalies were found. The committee stated that in some categories workers have been hired more in number than was approved by LWMC CEO.

In its recommendations, the committee said that all the degrees/certificates of hired staff, at first step, may be scanned by HR/ER & MIS and at second step be duly verified by HR/ER section. For excess staff, hired beyond approved positions (i.e. LTV drivers & sanitary supervisors for Lahore Project etc.), subject to eligibility/selection criteria, post-facto approval may be sought from competent authority if deemed fit. Data entry of applicants, until 29 June, 2020, be investigated to find purported undue delay on the part of employees concerned and entry of last 100 applicants be rechecked. The powers, conferred upon the competent authority by HR Manual and other applicable laws/rules, appropriate action may be taken accordingly.

It concluded that due to the time constraints, 100 percent verification of the record / data was not possible and the same was not the scope of findings of this committee as it was not an inquiry committee rather a fact finding committee. A post-recruitment scrutiny committee, constituted by LWMC CEO is separately working to revisit all the recruitment processes and shall submit its finding in due course. The committee took up all the broader and general areas relating to the subject recruitment.

When contacted, LWMC chairman said that he was not satisfied with the report of fact finding committee and in the next meeting of BOD he would change this fact finding committee into a complete investigation committee to fix the responsible officer(s).