Friday, September 12, 2008

UNDP in corruption charges in Pakistan: - appointed a political party bureaucrat on a lucrative contract

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has appointed a political bureaucrat of District Management Group (DMG) on a lucrative contract at the Planning Commission’s Centre for Poverty Reduction and Social Policy Development (CPRSPD) with a mandate to give poverty assessment and track down progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) every year, despite his total lack of capacity, knowledge or credentials on the matter.

The CPRSPD, a joint venture of the Planning Commission and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is responsible to conduct detailed poverty analysis based on latest data, tracking down progress on MDGs by launching report every year and other crucial reports assigned by the government.

“The government and UNDP appointed a DMG officer Nadeem Mehboob, as National Project Manager (NPM) of the CPRSPD. He had nothing to do with poverty analysis in his whole carrier but now he has been assigned the task to conduct research on prevalence of poverty in Pakistan. He will draw a handsome salary hovering around Rs200,000 per month,” sources told The News here on Friday.

When the newly appointed NPM of the CPRSPD was contacted for seeking his comments, he said that he applied for the post after witnessing an advertisement on the website of the UNDP and got the slot after passing all relevant competitive tests and interviews. He said he got a degree in Development Management from the UK and also worked with PRSP Secretariat in the Ministry of Finance. He said he also wrote one chapter for Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) a few years back and before leaving the project, he has also written for the PRSP-II.

Answering a query that how the CPRSPD would conduct research on poverty, he said the Centre would hire specialists/researchers on poverty, income distribution and labour in the days to come for conducting in-depth analysis.

He also said that he is not head of the CPRSPD. The structure of the poverty centre has changed in the second phase of the project. Nadeem said he has been given the slot of National Project Manager and not Project Director of the CPRSPD. Nadeem Mehboob again called this correspondent for explaining that he had not replaced the former head of the CPRSPD, Dr Sajjad Akhtar.

However, the sources said Pakistan along with other 152 nations had made commitments in 2001 under aegis of UNO to launch annual report on MDGs by tracking down progress of all required indicators till 2015 in order to give a clear picture to the policy-makers for making interventions where required. The Planning Commission was assigned to launch this annual report but last year the CPRSPD has done nothing to come up with a comprehensive report owing to internal politics and many other relevant issues.

The former head of the CPRSPD, Dr Sajjad Akhtar was shown the door by the Planning Commission’s authorities when he opted to write a chapter on poverty for the Economic Survey 2007-08 without obtaining prior permission from the competent authority.

“One can possess divergent views with the former head of the CPRSPD, Dr Sajjad Akhtar for not opposing the line drawn by the previous rulers under Shaukat Aziz regime but he is thoroughly a professional man, having adequate skills for conducting poverty analysis because of solid background on the subject,” said the sources and added that the new appointment of DMG officer as NPM of the CPRSPD showed that the government in nexus with the UNDP is completely ignoring the merit required for accomplishing this assigned task.

Earlier, Nadeem Mehboob, DMG officer was working with Finance Ministry’s Gender Responsive Budgetary Initiative (GRBI) project as programme officer. “The CPRSPD may have to hire consultants for conducting poverty analysis and tracking down MDGs progress as many professionals have already left the Poverty Centre during the last financial year owing to insecure financing arrangements,” said the sources.

Citing examples, the sources said that poverty analyst Iftikhar Cheema, senior economist/analyst Dr Talat Anwar and many other professionals such as Nousheen, Maqsood Sadiq, Dr Sajjad Akhtar, former head of CPRSPD and Nisar senior monitoring specialist have already left the Poverty Centre.

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