Fact-finding committee refers matter to FIA

Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: A fact-finding committee constituted to look into the contract undertaken by the PTV Sports channel has observed that the agreement of partnership between ARY Consortium and PTV Sports was executed in violation of Rules for Procurement and Public Private Partnership Authority Act 2017 and referred it to the FIA for further investigations.

A fact-finding committee was constituted to look into the contract undertaken by PTV Sports channel. Accordingly, Terms of Reference (TOR) were given to the committee and it was required to inquire about the business partnership between PTV Sports, and ARY (Consortium), and also examine the EOI published by PTV in a daily newspaper on August 10, 2021, seeking that partnership. The committee further required to determine whether codal formalities and relevant rules were observed.

According to the committee’s findings, unauthorized broadcasting rights given to A Sports for the T20 Cricket World Cup and PSL-7 matches resulted in loss of revenue to PTV. The PTVC and ARY Consortium M televised the Pakistan Super League (PSL-7), which resulted in loss to PTV. This subsequent partnership needs to be inquired in detail, viz-a-viz the claims of PTVC management.

The fact-finding committee observed that the agreement of partnership between ARY Consortium and PTV Sports was executed in violation of Rules for Procurement and Public Private Partnership Authority Act 2017, as directed by the Board. The agreement of the PSL which followed the umbrella agreement ((without board’s approval) i.e. the business agreement between PTVC and ARY consortium, resulted in loss to PTVC, as revealed during interviews conducted by the committee. Ex-MD PTVC Aamir Manzoor did not appear before the committee. The report says that A Sports, part of ARY Digital Network, which was launched in October 2021, was immediately given rights to broadcast T20 World Cup matches. It is worth mentioning that the agreement was signed even before the launch of A Sports. Relevant minutes of meetings of the Board and the Risk Management Committee makes no mention of A Sports. This needs thorough verification as seemingly a permanent competitor to PTV Sports was facilitated.

“The agreement between PTV-ARY Consortium was tripartite and Clauses 3.4. 3.10, 3.11, 3.12. 3.13, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.7, 6.12, 6.14, 6.15 were seemingly not in accordance with board decisions. Due to the paucity of time i.e. 3 days given to the fact-finding committee, the agreement could not be examined by the committee,” the report says.

The committee examined the relevant documents and interviewed the decision-makers. Expression of Interest (E0I), which was advertised in daily Business Recorder on August 10, 2021, was scrutinized in the light of the TORS. The irregularities observed have been deliberated upon following in the findings.

The committee further found that during the 250th meeting of PTV Board of Directors, the chairperson stated, “The government has established Private Public Partnership Authority, PTV Management should also consider rules and regulations promulgated by the authority before finalising the agreement”. However, the PTVC management did not follow the Public Private Partnership Rules as advised by the Chairperson of the Board.

The report says that on August 12, 2021, an addendum for the same EOI was also published in which proposals for PTV Sports’ infrastructural enhancement for up-gradation (from SD to HD)) requirements of PTVC were also sought, however, no cogent reason was given by the management of PTV for publishing the addendum.

It is pertinent to note that prior to advertisement of the EOI, PTVC and Blitz Advertiser Limited (BAL) had signed an MoU to jointly bid for ICC Rights 2019 to 2023. However, a long form agreement could not be executed between the two parties.

The report further says, “In response to the Expression of Interest (EOI) PTV received bids from four bidders. Meanwhile, PTV Management on August 24, 2021, notified allowing Evaluation Committee to assess the bids which initially determined Blitz Advertiser Ltd as the winner, however, after revising the bids ARY Consortium was declared to be the winner. It is pertinent to mention that BAL had offered to match the winning bid retrospectively, however, this offer was rejected by PTVC.” As per the report, the 16th meeting of the Risk Management Committee held on September 8, 2021 after threadbare examination agreed with the proposal of the management to approve offer of ARY Consortium and recommended to present the matter before the Board for approval.

On examination of the record and interviews of management of PTVC, conducted by the committee, it transpired that there was a lack of clarity among members of the PTV Evaluation Committee regarding the agreement, whether it was a Public Private Partnership or Procurement.

During the 250th Board meeting of PTV Board of Directors, it was concluded that PTV would follow relevant Procurement Rules for this transaction. The advertisement for E0I was published in Business Recorder only August 10, 2021) whereas, it was supposed to be advertised in at least two leading dailies newspapers as well as websites of PPRA and PTV.

The report further says that PTVC ventured into negotiation after opening of bids, which is only allowed under exceptional circumstances, which were not applicable in this bid. The winning bidder, who initially won the bid, lost it after negotiation to the second best bidder. It is pertinent to note that the losing bidder i.e. BAL offered to match the offer of the winning bidder retrospectively, however, this offer was rejected by PTVC management.

The Evaluation Committee of PTV assessed the bid individually. The Assessment Committee is, however, supposed to assess and quantify unanimously and if there is a difference of opinion the member can give a dissenting note.

The members of the Evaluation Committee were not well versed with the Procurement Rules. During the discussion the officials confirmed to the fact-finding committee that they had never executed the procurement procedure before and they were not aware of PPRA Rules or the Rules governing the Public Private Partnership proposals.

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