ISLAMABAD: While its important department of ensuring quality and standard of food and non-food items in the country has failed to perform, the Ministry of Science has ultimately decided to outsource the inspection, sampling, testing and surveillance of products.
The ministry which could not ensure the quality of products for consumers’ use would now try to do the same through outsourcing various facilities of its organization, PSQCA, officials informed this scribe.
During a meeting held here at the ministry on Tuesday, it has finally been decided to outsource initially at least seven products including bottled drinking water, natural mineral water, A.C Watt-hour meter, household refrigerating appliance characteristics and test methods, clothes washing machine for household use, multiple split-system Air-conditioners and Air to Air heat pumps and non-ducked air conditioners and heat pump.
During the meeting which was chaired by Federal Minister for Science & Technology Senator Shibli Faraz, the issue of outsourcing of some facilities of PSQCA as per Public-Private Partnership was finalized.
The minister emphasized the need for outsourcing. He informed that outsourcing some facilities of PSQCA such as inspection, sampling, testing and surveillance etc will ensure transparency, the efficiency of the organization and will ensure the quality of products for consumer’s use.
The meeting was also attended by Secretary MoST, DG PNAC, DG PSQCA, and the Directors concerned.
On the other hand sources in the ministry claim, the ministry was outsourcing the inspection of the mandatory food and non-food items, despite a whole team and departments existing in the ministry to do the same job.
They claim MoST would be taking an unconstitutional decision and violating the PSQCA Act 1996 which is duly approved by the president by outsourcing the functions of the authority whereas the federal cabinet had recently approved the inclusion of 61 new items in the ‘compulsory certification mark scheme’ of MoST.
According to an official at MoST who confided in Profit, the ministry had earlier prepared a draft proposal for outsourcing quality and standard inspections of over 160 items mandated to Pakistan PSQCA, an attached department of MoST.
Under the plan, private laboratories and companies would be issuing conformity certificates, licenses and marking items after required tests whereas the ministry is going to hire consultants for finalising proposals.
In case of outsourcing the mandate of PSQCA, various departments of the authority would be left redundant, leaving laborites and machinery of the authority idle.
According to another official of the ministry, apart from the legal issue, the proposed model is also not acceptable in the world as PSQCA has signed multiple MoUs and agreements with international standards bodies and organisations. Besides, as per ISO’s regulation, the conformity assessment with standardization, testing and regulatory affairs come under one umbrella.
PSQCA is a National Standards Body (NSB) that monitors and controls conformity assessment, testing and standardisation at the national level and trade at the international level.
“The current management of the authority and MoST are misleading the cabinet and prime minister by using the de-track procedure to finish high profile inquiries with personal settlements,” the MoST official said.
According to him, the outsourcing of mandates was also not rational as under the proposed Public-Private Partnership programme, as the authority would lose 40pc of revenue making the self-sufficient organisation financially unstable.
The authority is presently earning 100pc revenue; as the employees’ salaries are protected under sections 37 and 38 of PSQCA Act-IV 1996, the remaining 60pc revenue would not be enough to cater to the running expenses of PSQCA.
On the other hand, an insider informed that influentials in the ministry, who are facing inquiries regarding the purchase of machinery and other lab parts worth billions of rupees, were intentionally trying to outsource the entire testing work to close cases related to the PSQCA lab, testing facilities etc.
According to him, the ministry was going to outsource the business even though it has already recruited dozens of field officers, project officers and other staff regularly for doing the same job.