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The facts only, please – PCB's rejoinder

May 22, 2008 - The International News

By Mansoor Suhail

Masood Hasan's columns in The News of May 18 and 19, which carry unfounded allegations and venomous criticism of the Pakistan Cricket Board and its chairman, are distortions which cannot be substantiated. It is regrettable that the writer has used his columns in your esteemed newspaper to unleash a personal vendetta against the PCB which had refused to oblige him on solicited favours in the recent past when he demanded from the board a contract for his PR/advertising agency.

Further, the writer did not ever bother to call the PCB to ask for its side of the story as is the journalistic norm and ethic. As such, these unsubstantiated allegations and innuendo do not deserve to be replied to, but in the interest of informing the readership and to set the record straight, the PCB wishes to clarify the following based upon facts:

NCHD/PHDF: It is a lie that the funds and grant given to the National Commission for Human Development and the Pakistan Human Development Fund by the government of Pakistan was "never accounted for". All grants and funds received from the government were released by the Ministry of Finance after approval by the competent authority and following the established rules of business of the government.

The NCHD's accounts have been audited annually by Ferguson & Co and there are no qualifications. In addition the auditor-general of Pakistan also carries out an audit of the accounts of the NCHD/PHDF. It is totally malicious, as alleged by the article, that "much more money has been gobbled up under the guise of service to the poor". There are no irregularities, unauthorized use of funds or unaccounted for expenditures by the NCHD/PHDF as alleged in the article. This is substantiated by the final report of the auditor-general for the audited accounts of the NCHD for 2002-2005 as submitted onward to the president and to the Public Accounts Committee of parliament.

Dr Nasim Ashraf, who is chairman of the NCHD and the founding director of the PHDF/NCHD, has personally contributed nearly Rs10 million to the fund since its inception. He has worked in an honorary capacity drawing no salary either from the NCHD/PHDF for the last seven years and from the PCB for the last two years. Dr Ashraf in fact has been reimbursing the NCHD even for the personal use of a car and home telephone even though he is authorized all of these in his capacity as chairman with the rank of minister of state. So far, records prove that Dr Ashraf paid to the NCHD Rs997,774 from 2003 to 2007 for the above.

Dr Nasim Ashraf was a very successful doctor who had practised in America for nearly 28 years and was asked to come to Pakistan for public service and not for any other motive. Both the NCHD and the PHDF are managed and run by an independent board of directors and not by a single individual. Eminent personalities from all over the world are the custodian of the funds for the NCHD and the PHDF. Every decision is made in an open and transparent manner at board meetings whose minutes are available on record. In addition, audited financial statements are posted on the website on a quarterly basis and accounts are also submitted to the Ministry of Finance on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, the UNDP has also carried out a complete financial audit as per their agreement with NCHD at the conclusion of their five-year agreement.

The NCHD/PHDF has successfully raised over $27 million from such internationally reputable entities such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Glaxo Smith Kline, the OPEC Fund, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNDP which shows the confidence of such entities who do their full due diligence before entering into any partnership with an organization. The audited financial statements of accounts are sent to all partners. The NCHD won the International UNESCO Award for the Best Literacy Programme in the World in 2006 based upon its innovative programme which has successfully established 122,000 adult literacy centres in all 114 districts of Pakistan besides 22,000 additional primary feeder schools. There is no case pending against NCHD/PHDF in NAB or another such entity as alleged in the article.

The PCB constitution: The constitution of the PCB was suspended in July 1999 by the then president Rafiq Tarar and was finally reinstituted because of the efforts of Dr Ashraf in November 2007.

There is a governing body comprising 14 eminent people including the presidents of regional associations that conducts all affairs of the PCB. The chairman has constituted committees that deal with finance, audit, HR and discipline, commercial affairs, infrastructure, domestic cricket, international cricket, and there is even a good governance and rules committee. A former secretary-general for finance Moin Afzal heads the finance committee, former test cricketer Ejaz Butt with substantial corporate experience chairs the internal audit committee and the rules and governance committee is headed by Justice Ejaz Yousaf, a Supreme Court judge. The commercial affairs committee is chaired by Farooq Rehmatullah while Lt-Gen (r) Munir Hafiez heads the disciplinary and HR committee.

Even as chairman of the ad-hoc committee before the new board was established, proper procedure was being followed with Moin Afzal heading the finance and treasury functions along with Ali Raza, president of the NBP. All expenditures and budgets were approved by this ad-hoc committee which had legal powers under section 14 of the constitution of the PCB. It is untrue that nepotism and cronyism are being practised at the PCB. There is no relative or friend of the chairman who is employed and after an open, transparent process led by Ferguson & Co, the CEO, Shafqat Naghmi, was selected after a worldwide search and interviewing nearly half a dozen candidates. Mr Naghmi has an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley and has studied at Harvard University. He has the distinction of having implemented the machine-readable passport system in Pakistan in the course of an illustrious career in two provinces and the federal government. Sheikhupura Stadium was built purely from public support, and a sum of Rs40 million was collected from the public because of the faith people had in Mr Naghmi's honesty and determination. No enquiry has ever been conducted into the affairs of Sheikhupura Stadium as alleged by the writer. Finally, Mr Naghmi was already serving in the federal government when Ejaz Shah was made home secretary of Punjab. In fact, the two have never met in life. Every position in the PCB is openly advertised and the process is followed as laid down in the policy manual. This is all available on record.

Chairman's perks and allowances: It is important to point out that the perks and allowances of the chairman PCB were not instituted by Dr Ashraf but existed before he took charge. On assumption of office, the chairman PCB cancelled the practice of a PCB house for the chairman in Lahore saving the board nearly Rs10 million over the last 18 months. Even though the policy allows the chairman, he does not avail the domestic daily allowance. This amount approximately comes to Rs1.8 million and has not been claimed for reimbursement by the current chairman.

Other perks and allowances such as a 3,500 cc car, four servants, telephone and utility bills for his personal residence have not been availed by Dr Ashraf, who has voluntarily waived it since 2006. After the escalation in air fares the PCB chairman instituted a new policy whereby every director and board member including the chairman would only travel in economy plus for domestic travel in Pakistan. This has saved hundreds of thousands of rupees in the last few moths. To date, he has never claimed any reimbursement for entertainment allowance of the chairman which is based upon actual.

DLA–Piper: Regarding the law firm DLA Piper which is reputed to be one of the top law firms for sports in the world, the facts are that it was hired by a former chairman to protect Pakistan's interest after the Oval test fiasco. It succeeded in exonerating Pakistan from the charge of ball-tampering at the hearing in London. Subsequently it helped the PCB win its case at the International Court of Appeals in Lausanne against the World Anti-Doping Agency. Also, it is highly inflammatory of the writer to allege that the appellate tribunal of the doping case headed by renowned jurist Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim did not act in an independent and impartial manner. This is impugning the integrity of the judge and the tribunal.

Finances: It is incorrect that the PCB balance sheet showed Rs34 billion when Dr Ashraf took over in October 2006. For the record, as per the financial audited accounts of 2005, the PCB's assets were Rs1.90 billion on June 30, 2005, and had risen to Rs4.02 billion on June 30, 2007. Liabilities stood at Rs292.8 million on June 30, 2007, and have been decreased to Rs215 million as of March, 31, 2008. In addition, the board has invested according to a policy approved by the finance and treasury committee in only A-rated banks and the rate of return on this over the last four years has grown from 4.5 per cent to nine per cent.

Achievements: Discipline – the chairman instituted zero tolerance policy for indiscipline. Due process was always afforded to the accused and Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Asif got off on a technicality in the doping case from the appellate tribunal headed by Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim. Subsequently, the PCB took up the cudgels and won all international challenges to that decision. In the latest Shoaib Akhtar case, the PCB's governing board and disciplinary committee handed the sentence to the bowler for repeatedly violating the board's code of conduct as he was under a two-year probation period following his last offence of hitting Mohammad Asif. The governing board clearly did not wish to harm any individual's ability to earn his livelihood therefore it specifically allowed Shoaib Akhtar to play overseas but prohibited him from playing for Pakistan or within Pakistan. Nothing could be fairer than that. It was the appellate tribunal headed by an equally independent judge, Justice Aftab Farrukh, which gave a stay order to suspend the ban for 30 days to allow Shoaib Akhtar to play in the IPL. The PCB had no jurisdiction and had nothing to do with this decision of the appellate tribunal.

Infrastructure: Just in this fiscal year alone, the PCB has undertaken work to have 22 grounds in 22 districts of the country – six in Sindh, seven in Balochistan, six in NWFP and three in Punjab – which will all be completed by June 30, 2008. This is consistent with the PCB's policy of developing infrastructure at the grassroots level.

Welfare of cricketers: Dr Ashraf implemented a pension fund scheme for retired test cricketers thereby benefiting 43 past cricketers who now receive a monthly pension. Gratuity for retiring umpires has also been started in the last two years. For the first time, first class cricketers are being given salaries. Nearly 260 cricketers in eleven regions benefit from this. In addition the match fee for first class matches has also been increased to promote domestic cricket.

For the Pakistan national team, the amount given in monthly contracts as well match fees and bonuses have been increased significantly over the last two years. For the first time, under-19 cricketers are also being paid a match fee. A national talent hunt scheme was launched in 2007 with the support of Mobilink and Geo TV. Twelve thousand young cricketers under the age of 15 took part in trials in 55 locations in the country. From this a Pakistan under-15 team was culled which won the first under-15 international championship held in the West Indies last month.

It was only fair had Mr Masood Hasan should have at least tried to verify the facts from the PCB before writing something that was in clear disregard of the facts and which made unsubstantiated and baseless remarks against the integrity and reputation of Dr Nasim Ashraf as well as the PCB and its employees. It is hoped that the above facts will correctly inform your readers. Ultimately it is for them to decide and judge.

The writer is director media at the PCB

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