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Fata Development Authority restructure plan stirs controversy

Fata Development Authority restructure plan stirs controversy

PESHAWAR: The Fata Development Authority (FDA), which was declared redundant by a high-level committee, is being rejuvenated through absorption of several regular directorates of the Civil Secretariat Fata by it.

Officials said the Fata Reforms Commission had recommended restructuring plan to cut down non-developmental expenditure.

However, critics claimed the proposed move was aimed at serving interest of few people serving in FDA. They also insisted the FDA was a corporate body and merger of regular departments or directorates with it was illegal.

Notwithstanding the Peshawar High Court’s interim order regarding the proposed merger of the directorate of irrigation, mineral and industries with the FDA, hectic activity continued for the plan’s execution.

The PHC had asked the relevant authority to maintain status quo on the matter.

Employees of the Civil Secretariat attached with these directorates had filed a petition with the high court in June last and challenged the absorption plan.

These directorates have been functioning under the umbrella of the secretariat.

On the recommendation of the four-member Fata Reforms Commission, a plan has been made to merge irrigation, hydel power, mining, industries, technical education and Fata Investment Facilitation Authority with the FDA.

Several meetings chaired by Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan have been held in Peshawar and Islamabad to give final shape to the proposed merger plan but it has yet to be materialised due to legal complications.

An official document said a meeting chaired by the governor on August 10 had decided to transfer all directorates except irrigation’s to the FDA.

The affected employees, who have challenged the restructuring plan in the court, have accused the FRC members of exceeding its mandate and trying to protect interest of few serving and retired officers.

Serving officers have been posted to the FDA on deputation.

“The FDA is a dead horse and its dissolution was proposed in 2010 but some influential people are trying to keep it alive to protect jobs of their blue-eyed people,” said an official.

He said the Civil Secretariat, a parent body, was not satisfied with the performance of the FDA but the FRC comprising retired civil and military officers was pushing the governor for merging other directorates with the authority to safeguard the interests of few retired officers and consultants.

The FDA, brainchild of the then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, Lt-Gen Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, was set up under the Fata Development Authority Regulation, 2006, but it has been subjected to criticism since its creation. A high-level committee had recommended its dissolution keeping in view its ‘poor performance’.

A summary submitted to the governor concluded: “It would therefore be appropriate and the best practice if the FDA is wound up and its interventions, assets and liabilities become part of the secretariat and the line departments already dealing with its subjects. This will save huge non-developmental expenditure of the FDA.”

After its creation, the FDA was asked to work on the establishment of reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs), development of industrial infrastructure, exploitation of mineral resource, skill development, tourism, construction of small dams and assessment of potentialities for economic development of Fata.

A senior civil officer functions as the chief executive of the authority and a brigade of four executive directors, general managers, assistant general managers, consultants and other employees work under his command. The authority gets 10 per cent of Fata annual development as a single line budget from the secretariat.

The summary moved in early 2012 said the primary function of the FDA was the establishment of ROZs, a lollypop offered by the then US administration led by President Bush to the Musharraf military regime to compensate Pakistan for its losses in the war on terrorism. The issue of ROZs has been dead for quite some time, said the document.

“It (the FDA) could not go for any industrial estate and its efforts for establishing the marble city in Mohmand Agency has not borne fruit. Even the marble machinery pool has been handed over to the secretariat,” said the six-page summary.

On the other hand, regulatory functions of minerals, technical education and industries had been returned back to the secretariat.

In the irrigation sector, the FDA had constructed one dam, while another was under construction. After their construction, these dams are to be handed over to the relevant directorate.

The only function being performed by the FDA is to run women skill development centres, which had been taken over by the technical education directorate.

The number of these centres has come down from 54 to 39.

“Considering that the FDA gets 10 per cent of the Fata ADP, its non-developmental expenditure is an exorbitant 21 per cent with heavy pay packages for its employees,” said the summary.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2015

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