ISLAMABAD - Terming use of employees’ gratuity in other projects illegal, the Senate Standing Committee on Industries Wednesday decided to get the matter investigated by law enforcing agencies.

“It is illegal to use employees money somewhere else, the matter should be investigated by FIA or NAB,” senators observed.

During the discussion, the members were informed that Pakistan Steel Mills management had issued charge sheet to labourers who demanded increase in their salaries.

It is against law and unjust. Non-payment to employees is a crime, the members said. The committee directed the PSM management to withdraw charges against mill employees immediately.

The Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) management reportedly used Rs7.5 billion from its employees’ gratuity fund to meet its operational expenditures, after banks refused to offer loans.

The matter was revealed in 2011 for the first time, when the Public Accounts Committee, was told that a sum of Rs3.6 billion was taken out from the gratuity fund, which is paid to employees at the time of retirement. Since then, the management has been alleged of using employees’ funds in other projects from time to time.

Last year, the PSM consumed half of Rs18.5 billion bailout package in paying salaries and asking another Rs4.5 billion to pay gratuity to its retired employees.

Minister for Industries and Production Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi last year told the Senate that Pakistan Steel Mills had paid gratuity fund to its entitled ex-employees up to April, 2013.

During the meeting, senators expressed dissatisfaction over the audit report of Utility Stores Corporation and said that audit was not carried out properly.

Senator Hidayat Ullah said that strict measures were required as corruption and irregularities were bringing bad name to the Corporation. The Corporation management informed that the government had announced subsidy of Rs1751.14 million on 22 items under Ramazan Package. The package includes subsidy on flour, sugar, dates, rice and other kitchen items.

Committee directed the management to ensure availability of subsidised items across the country especially far-flung areas including Fata.

The daily wages employees also came under discussion and the senators were of the view that daily wages employees working on meagre salaries and without any benefits should be regularised.

There are 3,136 daily wages employees working at 5,455 stores, meeting was told.