ISLAMABAD:The Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) has informed the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) that the allegations of discrepancies in ‘Free Textbook Scheme’ are baseless. According to a letter a copy of which is available with Daily Times, the PEIRA intimated the CADD that an audit carried out by auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) for the scheme to providing free textbooks to students of its registered private educational institutions (PEIs) through their managements found no discrepancies in the project. Attached with the CADD, the PEIRA is an autonomous entity and has the mandate to register and regulate private educational institutions and make ensure that they follow uniform policy regarding curricula according to the federal scheme of studies and provide other such kind of strategies, including declaration of fee structure to private educational institutes. The government had launched a scheme in 2008 titled ‘Provision of Free Textbooks’ to students of registered PEIs in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The scheme was meant for low fee private schools of the ICT. However, according to documents, the scheme discontinued in 2012-13 over alleged to absence of transparency on the part of private educational institutions. Although the scheme had been closed down, it left a room for employees to keep themselves jumbled in mutual tussles. Former PEIRA secretary Javed Iqbal, who was suspended by Chairman Hasnat Qureshi, wrote a letter to the CADD secretary informing him about discrepancies worth Rs 7.15 million in the said scheme. Subsequently, the CADD inquired PEIRA authorities about the matter. In response, Chairman Qureshi informed the ministry that in 2008-09 it released Rs 8 million for this scheme out of which Rs 7 million was paid to the National Book Foundation to provide free text books to 31,191 students, while Rs 1 million was spent on office building, Similarly out of released amount Rs 10 million in 2009-10, Rs 7.58 million was spent on textbooks and all released amount of Rs 10.5 in 2010-11 was spent on providing free textbooks to students. Moreover, the PEIRA said that a sum of Rs 7.17 million was spent on textbooks out of the released amount of Rs 11.025 million in 2011-12, while the rest of the amount was spent on ‘official needs’. For fiscal year 2012-13, the institution was given Rs 12.065 million out of which it spent Rs 10.655 million on purchasing of books. According to the submitted response to the CADD, the PEIRA said that a total of 2.86260 million students had benefited from the scheme. However, due to lack of luminousness in PEIs, the authority halted the project and it was difficult to disburse books directly to students. The PEIRA also said in the letter that a special audit of this scheme was also carried out by AGP as per the directives of the CADD in October 2015 in which AGP found all funds were spent in a lawful manner. Currently, the entity consists of only 20 employees while 9 of them are on strike since the past three weeks and some of them have been suspended by competent authorities. According to sources, official business of the whole office has been interrupted since the last few weeks. Some of the employees are also demanding restoration of PEIRA Secretary Javed Iqbal. Although no specific reasons were mentioned in the suspension letter of Iqbal, Chairman Hasnat Qureshi alleged that he was involved in instigating some elements in the office to create hurdles in smooth functioning of the institution. On the other hand, Iqbal alleged that Imtaiz Qureshi, member PEIRA, forced him for preparing fake information. “However, I refused to do this unlawful act,” he said, adding” “I paid the price in the form of my suspension from job.” However, Hasnat Qureshi claimed that he was empowered to hire or fire any official up to grade 18. “So, I did nothing illegal.” The CADD is also slumbering over the matter. Education Joint Secretary Tariq Moj, who has been assigned the task to conduct an impartial probe into entire episode, could not be approached despite repeated attempts. Published in Daily Times, January 8th 2018.