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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production, Friday, while expressing serious concerns over the government’s failure to appoint the chief executive officer (CEO) of the ailing Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) has directed the government to take practical steps to revive the state-owned entity and furnish the report to the committee within next two weeks.

The committee meeting held here under the chairpersonship of Senator Khalida Ateeb was informed by the officials of the Ministry of Industries and Production that the government had put the PSM on the entities to be privatised but failed to get any buyer as a result on October 31 it was delisted from the privatisation list. The officials said that the government has decided to revive the country’s largest steel production unit.

The officials said that the PSM was included in the privatisation list on June 17, 2019, however, the Privatisation Commission Board in its meeting held on October 6 decided to halt the privatisation process as only one bidder raised concerns about transparency in the process.

All set to hand over PSM to MoI&P

The meeting received a comprehensive update on the progress made regarding the previous recommendations concerning the PSM, the National Fertilizer Corporation, and the Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Center.

The chief financial officer (CFO) of PSM highlighted a 25 percent increase in the temporary relief allowance for employees, effective since September 2023, initially emphasizing for one-year duration.

The committee expressed apprehension regarding the prolonged delay in the vacant CEO position for the past four months. Emphasizing the urgency of the CEO’s appointment, committee members underscored the necessity to adhere to the appointment protocol, urging swift action to fill the vacant position in line with regulations.

In response to the prevailing challenges, the committee showed intent to call the caretaker Minister for Industries and Production and the secretary for a subsequent meeting. With their absence, the discussion on PSM-related matters was adjourned for two weeks.

The committee mandated a comprehensive briefing on theft prevention strategies, the future outlook for the mill, safeguarding employee welfare, protecting assets, and immediate plans.

The committee emphasized the criticality of the caretaker minister and secretary’s attendance, issuing directives for their proactive involvement and readiness to address the concerns plaguing PSM.

Of paramount concern to the committee was the alarming surge in theft incidents within PSM, resulting in substantial financial losses. Officials revealed that since 2021, thefts have escalated, causing a loss of approximately 18 million rupees, with recoveries amounting to 4.9 million rupees.

The theft of machinery and assets has significantly impacted the operations and stability of the mill.

Addressing the issue, the committee discussed the correlation between a reduction in workforce and the rise in theft incidents, the CFO of the PSM attributed the increase in thefts to the decreased workforce, highlighting a drastic reduction in employees from over 9,000 to a deserted environment, thereby, escalating security vulnerabilities.

The meeting also addressed key financial matters and discussed outstanding and overdue payments to be made by National Fertilizers Marketing Limited (NFML), and Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan (USCP) to Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). Highlighting the urgency of resolving these payments, the meeting emphasized the importance of timely action to avoid accruing additional interest.

The meeting was informed by the senior officials of the USCP and NFML has to pay over Rs27.9 billion to the TCP on account of subsidies payment which has not been paid by the Finance Ministry first in 2007-14 period and then in 2011-22 period on the import of sugar.

The USCP officials said from 2007-14 subsidy payments of over Rs23.98 billion are outstanding against USCP and in 2021-22 Rs4.03 billion. The officials said that including interest payments of over the past 16 years the amount could touch Rs50 billion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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