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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) endorsed the Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) of the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority (FGEHF)’s recommendation that no plots would be given to any group other than the FGEHF employees in the future.

The endorsement came after PAC took up an audit paragraph of the Ministry of Housing and Works, pertaining to the irregular allotment of quota to different organisations and departments, including journalists, doctors and lawyers.

The auditors noted that the director general of the FGEHF had allowed the registration and membership to the journalists and media workers and allowed 2% quota in both these categories, saying that both these categories do not fall under the federal government employees.

The housing secretary told PAC that the Lahore High Court (LHC), the prime minister and the housing board had ordered that plots be allotted to others groups as well, adding that the issue was discussed in detail in DAC.

The secretary said it was decided that the quota which was set earlier would be discontinued and journalists, doctors, lawyers or any other group would not get plots in federal government housing societies in the future anymore.

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To PML-N’s Khawaja Asif’s question about the definition of the federal government’s employees, the secretary replied that all federal government employees who draw salaries from federal exchequer fall in the category.

While questioning as to why the federal government housing societies’ plots were given to other categories, Asif said that it seemed that some institutional and individual influence was used. “Plots are given to others but politicians are blamed for getting fringe benefits,” he said.

“Take a decision and ban it now,” Asif said. “Ban is imposed because now it’s [FGEHA] an authority and not a foundation anymore,” the secretary replied.

“PAC has endorsed DAC’s recommendation that the 2% quota should be ended,” DG FGEHA Tariq Rasheed also confirmed to The Express Tribune when asked about the decision taken in PAC after the meeting. Cheema added that the board would take the final decision.

During the meeting, PAC chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain said that people are dying to get food but some elite, including judges, always find a way to get plots, adding that judges could even increase their own salaries.

Tanvir said that judges had long been taking plots, saying he knows many names. In addition, he added, some heads of the government institutions were drawing Rs7 to 8 million in salaries for providing “God knows what services”.

The secretary and the DG housing reiterated that specific groups were added in the list but it had now been decided that the authority should restrict itself to the federal government employees only.

To the suggestion that plots should be taken back from journalists, PML-N’s Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that the journalists who had already been given shouldn’t be deprived of the plots now.

To the objection that some journalists sold plots to other people, Sayed said that government employees and army officials also did the same and asked if anyone had taken plots back from them. “It should be across the board,” he said, asking could the process of taking plots back be started from government employees and DHAs. “Journalists are already an oppressed community,” he added.

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PTI’s Riaz Fatyana opined that a policy shift was needed, saying that the state should give guarantee for a vehicle and an apartment – not a plot – to the government employees as it would end the misuse of vehicles and save land.

Fatyana drew PAC’s attention that the land would not be available in the next 20 years and stressed that “now is the time” to go for high-rise residential buildings. PAC chairman directed Fatyana to submit the proposal in writing so that it could be taken forward.

In the meeting, the PAC chairman asked the housing secretary to develop some kind of criterion where the federal employees could only get one government plot. While giving example of Indian city Chandigarh as a model city, Tanveer said that Chandigarh is a clean city and not everyone could get plot there.

“Islamabad being one of the best cities in the world is fast becoming like Karachi and Lahore,” he said, adding that Lahore is spread till the border. “I think we can’t go beyond the border,” he quipped.

The PAC members also discussed that the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) had wrongly been given edge over the commercial banks even when the commercial banks offered better rates on the kind of money NBP gets, saying the government patronage should end now.

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