MACN 2nd Roundtable Meeting

Huge economic costs of corruption: Majyd Aziz

KARACHI: Majyd Aziz, President Global Compact Network Pakistan(GCNP), has said that corruption in business is a universal problem and that the worldwide economic costs of corruption are in excess of $2 trillion. In Pakistan, corruption and bad practices are now institutionalized and hampering economic progress. The widespread corruption results in an inefficient economy. Moreover, the moral cost of corruption is endemic too and those who have discretionary or decision making powers are either forced to commit corrupt practices or are deeply involved in taking advantage of their positions.

Majyd Aziz was chairing the Roundtable Meeting on Identification of Good Practices, Malpractices and Corrupt Practices and their Solutions in Maritime Industry of Pakistan, hosted by GCNP in association with Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) based in Denmark. He was addressing users and stakeholders of Maritime industry from eleven Chambers and Associations.

He advised all should agree in introducing transparency, having zero tolerance for corruption, and working as a united force. Influence peddling or giving expensive presents or payments given to receive undue advantage are normal. Corruption is also when businesses make political donations with intent of influencing political decisions changing policies or amending laws. Favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, etc. are forms of corruption because these lead to unfair preferential treatment at the expense of others. He wondered why stakeholders do not focus on one office or department at one time and sincerely pledge not to offer bribes or gifts. This can only happen if collective action is taken and agreed by all stakeholders.

Mathias Bak of MACN Denmark participated virtually, advised that stakeholders must sit and develop standard operating procedures and have a strong platform to become a powerful deterrent against bad practices. He added that full compliance of the SOPs would enable stakeholders to change the system through optimization of their resources. He said that curbing corruption is essential for economic growth and reducing cost. Developing consensus on efficiencies, transparency, and efforts, would ensure integrity, and free them from challenges of undue pressures.

During an informative, lively, and focused discussion among the stakeholders, there were a number of suggestions and proposals, especially with regard to detention charges and avoidable demurrages. There was a consensus to establish a Ship Agents Advisory Board that would be the focal point for all disputes and Port activities. Fixation of the Import Trade Price formula would end arbitrary price fixation and corruption in Customs. There was a need to form a Monitoring Body to keep a check on shipping companies.

The participants also complained that the Customs and Port authorities unilaterally change rules and regulations, and these changes result in corruption and bad practices. Issues were also highlighted on cross stuffing and if cross stuffing were allowed for transit trade, why should not it be done for general cargo. A defined explanation of examination by Customs be enforced and that transparent policies by the government were needed to end corruption in the Customs.

The participants made numerous complaints against the mushrooming of labor unions, use of by-road workers, entry of unauthorized persons in the Ports, mandatory employing workers of Karachi Dock Labor Board whose daily wages are very high, and the strong-arm attitude of officials of Department of Plant Protection. These and many more charges increases the cost of cargo clearance and ultimately paid by the general consumer.

Tanvir Ahmad, Advisor on MACN for GCNP, informed that GCNP had a meeting with FIA a detailed letter was handed over to the concerned Director. GCNP proposed that the old SOPs have become outdated and are not relevant today. FIA should study the ILO Maritime Convention and amend the SOPs accordingly. Muhammad Akram, Project Manager on MACN, moderated the meeting and informed that GCNP and MACN were holding regular seminars and individual consultative meetings and going full force in finding beneficial solutions. The National Conference would be held on 22 September where Mr. Bak of MACN Denmark would present the latest positive initiatives and action taken in other countries.

Representatives and office bearers from PIFFA, QICT, Custom Agents, Shipping Lines, Stevedores, Cargo Handling, PRGMEA, PHMA, QFS Terminal, KCCI, ICCI, Paper Merchants, attended the meeting. They unanimously expressed their willingness to join the fight against corruption and bad practices and offered full support and cooperation to GCNP and MACN.