THE HEC chairman in his letter (Jan 28) attempted to heap accolades over the Commission’s performance while opposing the recent move to bring statutory changes in its working.
It was not surprising that like the prevailing culture of maintaining institutional status quo the HEC also wants to preserve its own. We have seen that in the present shape the HEC is an
all-powerful body and hence not accountable to anyone for making decisions under a chairman with the status of the federal minister.
Theoretically, such autonomy should spawn a transparent, swift and cost-effective decision-making body untrammelled by any external influence. However, the opposite is true. The recent appointment of its executive director speaks volumes of its transparency.
Internally, it has become a deeply politicised body, and partisan attitudes drag the otherwise internal issues to courts which could otherwise be sorted out.
Recent litigation bears ample testimony to this fact. The contribution made by the HEC since its inception is not worth billions it spent. An independent probe could easily transpire it once it is brought to the altar of accountability.
The arbitrariness of its working is reflected when its board approves private membership of an elite club for its chairman. Had there been any check on that, it would never have happened. The upshot is that the HEC is defending it tooth and nail.
Should taxpayers keep on paying taxes for private benefits of individuals just because the board has approved it under the strong influence of the HEC chairman? Many other such bizarre decisions can be found once the upper crust is moved and subliminal level of powerfully autonomous body is exposed.
The HEC has always misperceived its autonomy and has thus refused to be accountable to anybody, including parliament and its committees. The chairman’s stance in this regard is not true as the HEC has often chosen to disregard oversight role of these committees as evident in news reports reflecting its passive resistance and its ability to lobby against any such attempt in the recent past.
The HEC always feels proud of its foreign PhD programme. It is true that it was beneficial to individual recipients. However, many of them never returned to work. So the mere numbers do not help the country in its development in short-to-medium term.
About domestic PhDs, there is no mention about the quality and standard of PhDs produced by our local universities. This was a main responsibility of the HEC to prepare standards but it never did so. There is no quality control and assessment mechanism in place to push universities in that direction.
There is thus a need for external accountability. This is also an established international institutional practice and norm.
The HEC should not resist any such progressive change and if stands on principles and ‘excellent’ performance as it claims, then what is there to worry about the external check which would only operate at a very broad level, leaving operational and internal decision-making intact.