ISLAMABAD: The government is still awaiting the report of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) investigation into the Rs10 billion copper theft from Pakistan Steel Mills, despite a lapse of one year, according to officials from the federal government who informed a parliamentary panel on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) had requested the FIA to launch an immediate probe into the theft of assets worth Rs10 billion from Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) last July. The ministry stated in a letter to the agency that the main plant was not being protected from thieves, indicating the involvement of security personnel.
Initial internal investigations revealed the participation of senior management officers, and the ministry forwarded their names to the FIA. However, the Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production, chaired by Senator Khalida Ateeb, noted that no results had emerged from the investigation so far.
Pakistan Steel Mills has incurred significant losses since 2008-09, leading to its closure in 2015. Despite its closure, the government continues to allocate funds for the payment of salaries and pensions, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of rupees each year. As of June 2022, the total losses, debts, and liabilities of the mills reached Rs650 billion, with high-value theft exacerbating the losses.
Last July, the workers’ trade union requested an investigation into the board of directors (BoD) and management, alleging administrative and financial irregularities and negligence in protecting national assets. Although the federal probing agency initiated an investigation, no public reports or results have been submitted to the government, according to committee officials.
During the committee meeting, officials provided an update on the retrenchment drive undertaken for the rehabilitation of Pakistan Steel Mills. They stated that approximately 5,282 employees were offered retrenchment with outstanding dues and additional pay. Of those, 4,434 employees accepted the proposal, while 1,591 employees rejected it, and 42 employees sought legal recourse. An allocated budget of Rs19.5 billion was designated for the retrenchment process, Of which, roughly Rs12.5 billion has been released to Pakistan Steel Mills, officials added.
Senator Khalida Ateeb inquired about new appointments after the retrenchment, but officials failed to provide a response. She directed Pakistan Steel Mills officials to provide complete details of pre-retrenchment employees in the next meeting. Additionally, Senator Khalida Ateeb raised concerns about the alleged copper theft worth approximately 10 billion rupees from Pakistan Steel Mills. Officials confirmed that the FIA was investigating the matter and assured that the final report would be submitted to the committee upon completion of the investigation.
The committee also addressed the appointment of Bashir Ahmad to the Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (PITAC). Officials stated that the individual was initially appointed as an ‘Apprentice Engineer’ on a one-year contract, which was later extended for six months, without mention of ‘Permanent Employment.’ However, the appointee claimed that some of his colleagues with alleged fake degrees were offered permanent employment after their one-year contracts. The chairman of the committee instructed the appointee to submit all relevant details for review in the next meeting.
With regarding to appointments at Utility Stores Corporation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the past five years, USC officials stated that no new contracts or regular appointments were made, but 779 daily wage staff members were hired for 89 days to facilitate the Sasta Atta Scheme operation.