ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet, in its meeting on 24 November 2020, demonstrated its unequivocal support to the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) by approving the issuance of a Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO), prescribing 3% of fee and charges levied by SECP, OGRA, PTA, NEPRA and PEMRA from the financial year 2009-10 and onwards to meet charges in connection with the functioning of the CCP.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Finance has issued the SRO on November 27, 2020, for gazette notification. Necessary action has also been requested including standing instructions to their bankers for transfer of the prescribed percentage of their total fee and charges collected during each quarter, for credit to the account of the commission, by the tenth of the month following the relevant quarter and before surrendering the surplus to the federal consolidated fund under intimation to the commission.
The commission duly acknowledges the support and efforts of the Ministry of Finance and also Ministry of Law in the entire process and views it as a stepping stone towards making the CCP a truly independent and robust organization. It also speaks about the commitment of the federal government by resolving the decade-old issue of payment of the said funding, thus providing due support in making CCP a sustainable and more effective organization.
On December 28, 2008, the federal government named the five regulatory bodies and fixed the said 3% of fee and charges levied by them as the amount to form part of the CCP Fund. Despite numerous correspondence with all those involved, full support of the Ministry of Finance, favourable opinions of the Law & Justice Division, objections of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) on the chosen regulators for non-payment, and the support of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue and strong recommendations from Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on numerous occasions, the commission was not able to tap into this source of envisaged funding.
Since its inception, the commission had been operating under severe resource constraints with a fixed annual grant. All penalties imposed by the commission are deposited in the Federal Consolidated Fund, thus the Commission is also shielded from any conflict of interest, perceived or real, as the quantum of penalties Commission imposes are not to be used for its operational budget. The Commission is hopeful that the five regulatory bodies would now be supportive and play their due role in the strengthening of the competition regime in Pakistan.
This three percent source of funding is appropriate and necessary, given the circumstances of the commission. A multi-source budget with multi-year funding arrangements, updated annually, will contribute to the independence of the commission allowing it to plan its work without uncertainty about the future.
The chairperson of CCP Ms Rahat Kaunain Hassan stated that the government’s commitment to strengthening of institutions hinges upon affording institutions administrative and financial autonomy. Resolution of long-pending matter will certainly enable the commission to pursue its legislative mandate more effectively and will also pave the way for organizational reforms. Pakistan needs an economic landscape to allow consumers to benefit from competition that aims at inter alia reduced prices, improved quality, efficiency and innovation. Once these funds are received and continue to be contributed, a financially autonomous commission can further help the government in their economic agenda.