LAHORE: Justice Shahid Waheed of the Lahore High Court will hold preliminary hearing of a petition challenging the approval granted by the provincial government for conversion of the Punjab Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) from a public-sector corporation to into a private-limited company on Friday (today). Advocate Naveed Khan had moved the petition on behalf of Chaudhry Shoaib Saleem, the petitioner. The petition stated that the PMDC established under The Punjab Minerals Development Corporation Act of 1975 had over 400 regular employees. Yet, it said, the corporation had never required any budgetary support for its operations since it was a profitable entity ever since its inception. The petition further stated that during the financial year of 2016-17, the PMDC had paid Rs65.352 million in sales tax, Rs16.886 million income tax, Rs 3.104 million for Employees Old-age Benefits Institution (EOBI) apart from royalty of Rs30.274 million to the provincial government. It said the Chief Minister had granted approval to a proposal to convert the corporation into a private limited company at a meeting in October. It alleged that the approval was meant only to accommodate people close to the Chief Minister who were already getting paid in millions of rupees. The petitioner’s counsel has told the court that according to Section 18 of The Punjab Mineral Corporation Act of 1975, the corporation was mandated to form and establish companies to manage and run its various projects, however, the CM decided to constitute a new company by converting the corporation into a private limited company in violation of the constitutional scheme, especially of the Article 140-A, read with Article 32 of the Constitution. The counsel has also stated that as per the Local Government Ordinance of 2001 and the Punjab Local Government Act of 2013 all the powers regarding financial matter have to be exercised by the local government. Therefore, he said provincial-level companies were operating as independent entities in violation of the local government laws. He stated that the Auditor General of Pakistan had the constitutional mandate of conducting audit of state-owned organizations, but companies registered with the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) were only conducting internal audits through private audit firm. This had limited the constitutional scope of the auditor general, he said. The counsel further said that the LHC had already taken cognizance of a petition against constitution of 56 companies in the province. More than 10 companies had recently been closed either due to illegalities or inefficiencies. He stated the constitution of such public companies was not just a wastage of public funds but also in contradiction to the spirit of democratic governance. The latter valued a system based on social justice and provision of public services, he added. The petitioner’s counsel requested the court to declare the government’s decision to convert corporations into private limited companies as illegal and in violation of the constitutional scheme and The Punjab Mineral Corporation Act 1975. Govt notified on application seeking NAB probe into Saaf Pani affairs. Hearing an application seeking directions for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate alleged irregularities and corruption in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court issued a notice to the provincial government and other respondents on Thursday. Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique had moved the application in a petition challenging the establishment of PSPC and 55 other public companies in the province. The petition also raised questions over the appointment of several Punjab Assembly members as heads of these companies. The petitioner said that there were corruption cases of Rs80 million in the PSPC projects. Published in Daily Times, December 8th 2017.