Pakistan’s 3G technology seems a great dream with never-ending journey.The 3G technology has yet taken another step backwards after consultants hired by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) for the future auctioning of 3G licences are initiating legal action against the PTA which is telecom regulator in the country.The legal action is focused over the non-payment of their fees.
The 3G auctioning process may also suffer and be entirely put on hold till a settlement of current issue and until any settlement is reached on the payment.There are reports that the consultants are looking forward for legal action in British courts too.
The legal action against PTA means that it is liable not only to pay unpaid fees to 3G consultants which amounts to approximately Rs 50 million or $0.5 million but has to bear the legal costs associated with the payment case.
The lawsuit is a fresh obstacle in way to 3G in Pakistan and raised further problems for PTA and the federal body that has failed to launch and drive the much-awaited technology on almost 3 occasions last year.PTA has already wasting Rs 20 million in public funds for hiring the experts and 3G consultants.
PTA on November 23, 2012 had hired
- Rob Nicholls of the Australian law firm Webb Henderson
- Dennis Ward, former spectrum auctioneer of the Canadian Spectrum Management Program
- and Martin Sims of the spectrum specialists PolicyTracker to assist PTA in auctioning 3G licences.
It is pertinent to mention that the bold PTA Member Finance Nasrul Karim Ghaznavi and Technical Khawar Siddiq Khokhar both had initially opposed the abovementioned three appointments of consultants. Khokhar and Ghaznavi were of the view that the former PTA chief Farooq Awan had hired these consultants against the PTA law, and said that advice of these two members was not requested at any stage of the process.
This opposition of two members led to an internal turmoil within Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) with Farooq Awan,Khokhar and Ghaznavi at loggerheads.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also focused on 3G auction on December 21 and raised questions on 3G auctioning licences process in the country.
NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal had said that the NAB finds that the hiring of three consultants for 3G / 4G Spectrum (that is based on modern cellular phone technology) licences and its auction is not in line with the Pakistan Procurement Regulatory Authority(PPRA) rules.
PTA had to eventually terminate the concerned contracts in December, 2012.
The 3G consultants hired for auction purpose didn’t reacted to this breach of contract at initial point as they wanted to just complete the auction instead.The tried to contact high up officials of PTA but no one talked to them, different reports suggests.
Finally the 3G consultants have engaged three Pakistani lawyers named Waqqas Mir, Aiyan Bhutta and Umar Khan to take up legal action against PTA,so that their money can be recovered from them. The lawyers have worked out on the case and already served a legal notice to PTA, the source reported.
The source also reported that the lawyers are also looking at other options including initiating a legal action against PTA in the UK based on the cheque fraud which in UK is a criminal offence.
The civil recovery option is also on the cards of these consultants. The consultants’ lawyers may take up the case to hold the 3G auction till the time their issue of payment is settled, the source said.The consultants are of the view that before their contracts were cancelled by PTA,they had completed almost half of the work at their own expense.This includes lengthy stay at Pakistan of four weeks.
All the consultants says that they were not paid even a penny for their hard work they had done. They were issued with individual cheques by PTA for 10 percent of the agreed fee, but those cheques could not be cashed as Pakistan telecommunication Authority PTA had already cancelled them.
3G consultant Martin Sims said that The cheque is fraud which is pure simple and punishable by a jail sentence under the current Pakistani law.
Other 3G Consultant Rob Nicholls also said that they would go for every option available until they are paid.
Dennis Ward said that the contract cancellation letter that was issued by the PTA was ridiculous,contract was void ab initio, which is a legal term meaning invalid at the outset.
Rob Nicholls said that the PTA is being cavalier with the public money and is adopting head in the sand approach.He said that PTA should make an arrangement to settle its payment issue and bring the consultants back after the election to complete the auction.