PESHAWAR: The services of Sohail Ayaz, a consultant in a planning and development department project, were terminated on Wednesday following his arrest in Rawalpindi over child pornography and sexual abuse.

As Ayaz was convicted for paedophile sex offences in the UK, his appointment by a government department has also raised questions about the process of hiring consultants in donor-funded projects.

A notification was issued by project director of the Post Crisis Need Assessment (PCNA), said the contract signed between the Governance and Policy Project and Sohail Ayaz on Nov 1, 2017, was terminated with an immediate effect in pursuance of Clause 12 of the contract due to engagement of the consultant in fraudulent practices and immoral activities.

After deportation from the UK on the completion of jail term, Ayaz managed to secure job in the provincial government’s project under the health and planning and development departments and worked undetected for around four years until he was arrested in Rawalpindi in a similar case.

In a confessional video widely shared on social media, the accused admitted raping at least 30 boys.

Officials claim Ayaz was hired ‘purely on merit’, his deportation from UK over paedophile sex offences not known

The relevant officials told Dawn that Ayaz worked in the World Bank-funded projects in both health and P&D departments. A health department official said the accused was hired as a financial consultant with the revitalisation of health services in KP.

“He (Ayaz) was hired by a committee headed by the health secretary after the post was advertised and the WB issued him a no objection certificate,” he said.

Officials in the P&D department said the accused had previously worked at the health department and joined the Governance and Policy Project (GPP), a donor-funded project under the Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF).

The official said the accused was hired as a public-private partnership specialist in 2017.

His contract with the GPP dated Nov 2017 said he would be paid Rs3.4 million for his services from Nov 1, 2017 to Oct 31, 2018.

In his application to the GPP coordinator, the accused claims working for more than a dozen high-profile humanitarian organisations, UN and other donor agencies.

Strangely, INGO Save the Children, from whose London offices he was arrested on the charges of sexual offenses against children and child pornography, is missing from that list. The accused also claims that he has international and field experience in Afghanistan, UAE, Turkey, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq under challenging and post-conflict environment on project contracts and financial management. Officials in GPP said the accused was a workaholic type, who only minded his own business, and was a timid sort of person.

“It is really embarrassing for us,” a senior official said.

Another senior official insisted that lies were being propagated about Ayaz’s hiring as he was not hired on ‘parchi’.

“His (Ayaz’s) hiring was made on purely on merit,” he said.

The official said the project had no means to know a candidate’s past and it was rather difficult to engage lengthy inquiries about one’s past in short-term appointments.

“It’s the job of the Federal Investigation Agency to do something about him (Ayaz) after he was deported from the UK,” he said.

The official said he and other staff members felt revulsion after seeing news reports about the accused.

“Whatever he has done is against Islam, humanity and culture. He should be punished for his wrongdoings,” he said.

Both the KP Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Rules, 2014, and KP Project Policy, 2008, are silent about any background check of the consultant and mostly focus on professional competence of the applicant for the job on offer.

The KPPRA rules declare that whenever short-listing is deemed necessary, the procuring entity shall pre-determine criteria for short-listing.

According to them, except for single source, there will normally be a minimum of three consultants in the short-list, but there is no upper limit for number of candidates to be short-listed. However, if less than three candidates apply; their proposals may be considered on merit.

The rules say procuring entity while short-listing consultants may take the following factors into consideration, namely: (a) qualification; (b) general experience; or (c) specific experience, particularly of the last five years; or (d) any other factor that a procuring entity may deem relevant, not inconsistent with these rules.

Similarly, the KP Project Policy, 2008, which deals with appointment in development projects, does not mention any background check while making project staff hiring. Section 3(iv) which deals with procedures to fill the post states that, “the scrutiny will be carried out in the light of record furnished by the applicant with particular reference to his academic qualification, experience, professional skills, age limits and other conditions advertised for the post.”

A source said the project’s policy mostly dealt with hiring in government-own development projects, while in case of donors involvement, their policies also came into play.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019

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