A visit to the PEC’s regional office in Peshawar presents a picture of an organization that is in complete disarray. Dozens of people surround an officer inquiring him about the status of their license. On the right side of the table, a phone in slow volume is continuously ringing. The officer, looking visibly irritated, tries to answer the queries of the equally irritated applicants of PEC licence.
“Tell him to call himself, I can’t tell you his license details”, the officer tells a person who says he has come all the way from Bannu just to know the status of their company’s PEC license.
“He called many times but no one picks up the phone”, says the person while looking at the phone which is still ringing incessantly.
There is no response from the officer. He can hardly handle the angry crowd of applicants in front of him. To answer the phone too, he would have to have super human powers.
At the same time, another person angrily says he is going to lose millions of rupees if PEC didnt speed up their process.
There is severe shortage of human resources in the Peshawar office. Out of the 28 sanctioned posts for the provincial office, 17 lie vacant. The entire office is run by five officers who are actually relevant for the job. The remaining five to six are class 4 employees.
“The head office in Islamabad has about 50 people who do not have much to do. We have requested them many times to at least temporarily transfer some of them here [Peshawar office] to offload this burden from us but no action has been taken”, said one officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on this subject.
“They tell us they will hire people on the vacant posts but no one knows when that process will come to fruition”, he said.
“Even with five working staff, we have been able to process about 3000 licenses in the last three months against only 1500 that the Islamabad head office could issue in the same duration with their 50 staff”, further said the same source.
There is a big backlog due to the unavailability of staff. “Even Naib Qasids are used for data entry purposes at times”, said another officer who too requested not to be named.
However, shortage of staff is not the only problem. People from far flung areas of KP have to come all the way to Peshawar to find out the status of their license. A visit that could easily be avoided by maintaining a web based database containing details about all applications and giving each applicant access to it.
“Creating a web-based system that can automate the whole registration and renewal process of PEC license for both engineers and firms will not take more than three months for an expert group of software developers”, said Waqas Shehzad, an IT specialist from Peshawar.
Though the current PEC chairman, Engr Javed Salim Qureshi, since taking his charge in 2015 has taken some steps in this regard, but the progress has been slow.
“The chairman faces a lot of obstacles from various groups in making the whole process online because then it will take away all the money they can make from the manual application process”, said a source in PEC’s islamabad head office who like the rest requested not to be named because he feared reprisal.