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December 1, 2020

German, Austrian nationals booked over illegal appointment in PIA

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December 1, 2020

KARACHI: The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Corporate Crime Circle (CCC) has lodged a case against an Austrian national and a German national over alleged illegal recruitment in the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

An official of the CCC said that on the directions of the FIA Sindh director, the CCC registered an FIR against Helmut Bechhofner, an Austrian national hired as a consultant to the PIA chief executive officer (CEO), and Bernd Hildenbrand, a German national and former PIA CEO.

During October 2016, Bechhofner was appointed in the PIA as a consultant to the CEO by Hildenbrand for a period of three months. The alleged illegal appointment caused a loss of US$50,203 (Rs5,256,254) to the national exchequer, claims the FIA.

An inquiry registered at the FIA CCC Karachi established that Hildenbrand abused his position as the PIA CEO to unlawfully appoint Bachhofner without the approval of the competent authority.

In a letter issued by the establishment division on January 25, 2002, titled 'Guidelines for the Appointment of Consultants', the procedure was provided for hiring consultants in organisations under the administrative control of the government.

According to the procedure, the consultancy should be widely advertised and the advertisement should indicate the range of compensation package, including various facilities depending on the nature of work involved.

The applicants are then to be shortlisted and prioritised by an in-house committee of the client organisation.

For the general and non-development budget-funded consultancies, a selection board, headed by the secretary of the ministry/division concerned and including a representative each of the establishment division and finance division, has to recommend a panel of at least three candidates in order of merit for consideration of the appointment authority.

The selection board should also recommend the compensation package for the consultants placed on the panel. Final Approval will be accorded as follows after the general and non -development budget-funded consultancies are approved by the chief executive, on proposals routed through the Establishment Division.

The Personnel Policies Manual (PPM) Recruitment and Re-employment/re-instatement PIA, under Chapter No.34 Para No. 34.23 also adopted above guidelines of the establishment division for the appointment of consultants vide a circular dated April 4, 2002.

During the inquiry, it come on record that the requisition for acquiring the 'technical consultancy service' for engineering and maintenance department of the PIA was initiated on September 21, 2016 by Maqsood Ahmed, then PA engineering and maintenance director.

However, Bachhofner was appointed in the PIA as a consultant to the CEO without any advertisement and approval of the competent authority.

The German CEO allegedly violated the procedure prescribed by the establishment division and also did not follow the procedure mentioned in the PPM as neither was the assessment carried out for whether the required expertise was available in the PIA or not and nor was the opportunity advertised.

Hildenbrand appointed Bachhofner as a consultant for a period of three months against the monthly consultancy fees and salary of $15,000 while an additional boarding and lodging facility was also to be provided by the PIA to him in a hotel in Karachi.

Moreover, the facility of travelling and stay at not less than a five star hotel was also provided to the consultant with additional allowances.

Bachhofner remained as a consultant in the PIA from October 2, 2016, to January 2, 2017, and received total of $50,203 (Rs5,256,254), which is evident from the foreign payments vouchers of the PIA.

The FIA claims that based on the above mentioned facts, prima facie it has been established that Hildenbrand unlawfully appointed Bachhofner, which caused a huge loss to the national exchequer, and committed the offence of criminal misconduct and breach of trust, due to which the agency has registered a case against them. Further investigations are underway.