ISLAMABAD   -   Contrary to directions of Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed to bring transparency and openness in its subordinate departments, the National Highway Authority is continuously hiding public information about its executive board meetings.

Murad Saeed in his press conferences has been quite vocal about transparency but the NHA is reluctant to share the public information regarding its board meetings.

The concerned department of NHA avoids sharing meeting notices even after their issuance, hiding the approved minutes of board meetings whereas the NHA’s website did not have the updated record of said notices and minutes.

The website shows record till December 2018 and approved minutes of 313th board meeting are available but the authority has a number of meetings even after that, however, there is no record available on website of these meetings.

The executive board is a supreme forum for policy and decision-making in NHA while its decisions are of huge significance due to the involvement of billion of rupees.

However, it has been learnt that the top management of NHA is using the board just as rubber stamp to approve or disapprove selected agenda items through pick and choose.

Most of the times, the notices for the board meeting are issued just a day before the scheduled date and working papers are tabled on the spot. 

Sources informed that at several occasions, the board members from outside NHA strongly criticised authority’s causal behaviour by arguing that how a member could give his input without properly going through the agenda items. 

“The meeting notice and approved minutes are the public document and same should be provided whosoever wants to access them,” a senior bureaucrat commented, adding: “Even the working paper or the summary once approved or rejected is a public document and it can be obtained.”

The people working inside the NHA claimed that delaying the issuance of minutes and their subsequent uploading on website is basically a move to hide the important information from the masses to avoid criticism and objections while some of the employees also mint money by sharing this information to the contractors and other concerned persons. 

It is pertinent to mention here that a grade 20 officer secretary NHA is responsible to look after the affairs of executive board through a dedicated section however at present the same section is facing severe shortage of staff and resources.

On the other side, when contacted, NHA Chairman Jawad Refique Malik accepted that the aforementioned information was public and access to it could not be denied.

“I will direct NHA secretary to timely upload approved minutes on website and also make sure issuance of notices well before time and their availability as well,” he added.