The consultants which were hired by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) for the 3G licences auction have now taken legal action against the organisation due to non-payment of their fees. It has been earlier reported that PTA had paid the consultants and were criticised for having paid them for no reason as the auction is yet to take place. But PTA has been denying the charge of paying in the first place.
However, PTA is still guilty of wasting Rs.20 million in public funds for hiring 3G consultants in the beginning. The foreign consultants that were hired in November 2012 are Rob Nicholls from the Australian law firm Webb Henderson, Dennis Ward, who is the former spectrum auctioneer for the Canadian Spectrum Management Program, and Martin Sims who is the specialist consultant for PolicyTracker.
With the lawsuit now initiated against PTA, at least one thing has been proven that the consultants were really not paid. However, another negative aspect which this whole new scenario points to, is that there will be a further delay in auctioning of 3G licences. The world is quickly moving towards developing 4G and 5G technology and having to promote that, but Pakistan government in its lack of responsibility has not yet provided the people with 3G technology.
Furthermore, the consultants are threatening legal action in British courts too. PTA would now have to pay Rs.50 million along with face the charges of the legal battle too. There were already two opinions regarding hiring of consultants for the auction from some of the PTA officials, but the former Chairman Farooq Awan did it anyway, which was illegal according to PTA Member Finance and Technical committee. Farooq Awan did not consult the other PTA members before making this wrong move.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also got involved when the issue was raised in front of the federal organisation and it also found the action to be illegal when seen in light of the Pakistan Procurement Regulatory Authority regulations. The contracts were said to be terminated within a month in December of 2012. Despite termination, the consultants were still interested and wanted to approach PTA over the matter, but they are said to have received no response from PTA, which proves lack of any strategy over the blunder that has been caused. For this reason, the PTA is now facing legal action.
The consultants stayed in Pakistan for 10 days at their own expense, and PTA confirmed that it was so. They also said that they did almost half of the work at their own expense. The 10% of the amount which was paid to them in cheques could not be cashed as PTA had cancelled them. Thus, PTA might also face cheque fraud in a UK court.
The contract cancellation used the term “ab initio”, which legally means invalid at the outset according to Dennis Ward, who called the cancellation letter from PTA as “ridiculous”. How PTA now takes his future action under the influences of politicians will be seen within a few days, but the consultants in their professional commitment might still finish their job if the things turn out completely right. They are willing to get back after the election.