close
Friday May 24, 2024

‘Midnight operation’ in Punjab CM Secretariat

The data cleared pertained mainly to directives issued by the chief minister and the record of the CM’s discretionary grant

By Ansar Abbasi
March 31, 2022
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. -APP/File
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. -APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The day Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar submitted his resignation, a ‘midnight operation’ was conducted under the supervision of his key staff officers to clear all data from the computers of additional secretaries and deputy secretaries of the CM Secretariat.

The data cleared pertained mainly to directives issued by the chief minister and the record of the chief minister’s discretionary grant -- worth millions of rupees. Computer technicians accompanied the CM’s top bureaucratic aides, who went to the various rooms of deputy secretaries to clear all the data from their computers.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Punjab, Amir Jan, a Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) officer, holds three senior level positions. He is Principal Secretary to the CM, Additional Chief Secretary Energy and also secretary Energy.

Jan is Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Punjab, which is the senior most position in the Chief Minister Secretariat. This position has a pivotal role in provincial administration because the PS to the CM is the key aide and chief of staff to the chief minister. The principal secretary has the delegated authority to convey orders on behalf of the chief minister. He records orders, instructions, decisions on all summaries and files on behalf of the chief minister.

The principal secretary must monitor the working and performance of all departments and the heads of administrative divisions and districts on behalf of the chief minister. He is like the ‘eyes and ears’ of the chief minister.

Usman Buzdar, who is known for playing musical chairs with senior officers, had appointed Amir Jan as his fifth principal secretary in the last three and half years. Prior to Amir Jan, the position of PS to CM was occupied by Dr Raheel Sidiqui, Dr Shaoib Akbar, Iftikhar Sahoo and Tahir Khursheed under the present chief minister.

Amir Jan has been allowed by Buzdar to hold the charge of additional chief secretary (ACS) Energy and secretary Energy for almost one year, while he works as principal secretary. Interestingly, the principal secretary has to monitor the performance of the ACS Energy and the Secretary Energy department and has to keep the CM informed about their efficiency and quality of work. So here, in a unique arrangement, Amir Jan monitors his own work as ACS Energy and Secretary Energy Department.

In another anomalous situation, Jan in his role as the ACS Energy and Secretary Energy submits his files and summaries for orders of the chief minister to Amir Jan, who is also the PS to CM. These summaries and files are signed by Amir Jan, in his capacity as ACS Energy and Secretary Energy.

A senior official in the Punjab Secretariat shared with this scribe that although matters pertaining to the energy department are reviewed and decided by Amir Jan in the CM secretariat, he gets the orders signed by the Secretary Coordination of the CM office.

The Punjab Energy Department was established by former Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and has a critical role in issues pertaining to infrastructure development and the governance of energy sector.

As per Punjab Rules of Business, the Energy Department has multifarious responsibilities. Some of the key tasks that ACS Energy and Secretary Energy perform are the monitoring of the electricity tariff in Punjab, all matters pertaining and auxiliary to the hydel power stations of WAPDA or any other public/private sector agency located in Punjab.

His job also include close coordination with the federal government in respect of grant of licenses for oil and gas exploration in Punjab and cooperation with such companies and organizations undertaking such ventures in Punjab; coordination and reconciliation with the federal government on electricity charges; distribution network authorization for new housing societies, development of a power policy for Punjab, award of power projects in Punjab to Pakistani and foreign private sector companies; review and updation of the regulatory framework to promote fast-track investment in energy projects, along with administration and budget allocation, oversight of energy companies owned by the Punjab government.

Amir Jan in his capacity as Secretary Energy serves as Member of the Board of Directors of the above eight companies. The Principal Secretary also serves on numerous committees of the Board of Directors of companies.

A chief minister office source shared with this scribe that for the convenience of Amir Jan, meetings of the BOD and different committees of these companies are held in the Chief Minister Office. Corporate governance experts believe this arrangement is infested with conflict of interest. The secretary Energy is to be supervised by the ACS Energy, who in turn has to be supervised by the principal secretary to the chief minister. Here all three positions are held by one person.

It is said that if the principal secretary to the CM sits on the board and different committees of the board and holds the meetings of company BODs in the CM office, it makes all checks and balances provided in the rules and regulation redundant and dysfunctional.

According to the sources, the Punjab Energy department is the most resourced and rich department in the province. Procurements, contract management and monitoring of these scores of multi-billion rupee projects is also the responsibility of Amir Jan, who wears multiple hats in complete violation of the principle of good governance.