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Conducts study to run the corporation on commercial lines

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
By Aftab Maken

ISLAMABAD: The government has stopped paying subsidy to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) mainly due to financial constraints, said the Federal Minister for Industries and Production, Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, on Monday.

The government is paying a monthly subsidy of Rs1 billion through USC outlets on various food items, the minister said at a press conference at the PID media centre.

“Hiring of a large workforce and lack of professional approach in running the affairs of the corporation are major reasons for the discontinuation of subsidised items’ sale at USC outlets all over the country,” an employee of the USC told The News.

The present government after coming into power last March gave a go-ahead signal to the minister to recruit 3,500 employees, which led to the financial crunch at the corporation, he said.

Out of Trading Corporation of Pakistan’s receivables of Rs40 billion, the USC owed Rs7 billion and it had not paid a single penny to the TCP. The USC did not even pay the arrears of last year, he added.

In the last meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee on Feb 10, it asked the Ministry of Industries and Production to choose between continuous supplies of subsidised items at the USC or lay off recent recruits to improve its balance sheet, the USC employee said. The ECC in its last meeting directed the ministry of industries and production to ensure supply of essential food items at USC outlets to consumers.

At the press conference on Monday, the federal minister said that the ministry is preparing a new procurement policy for the USC to improve its image and supply quality products.

After the unearthing of a Rs5.9 million scam at the USC, Wattoo said that the ministry is conducting a special audit of the nine zones located in the Multan region and the ministry had also recovered Rs2 million from swindlers. He further shared with the media that the ministry is conducting a study in collaboration with LUMS to run USC on commercial basis.

To a question about the shortage of urea, the minister said that the local dealers were involved in hoarding and the provincial governments are responsible for tackling such malpractices. If there are any wrongdoings in the outlets of National Fertilizer Corporation, the minister assured that the ministry will hold an inquiry against them.
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