Utility Stores heading towards financial turmoil


KARACHI: Utility Stores Corporation (USC), a semi-government organization comprising chain of discount stores providing goods on subsidized prices, is heading towards serious financial turmoil as custodians appointed to run the outlets are daily-wage employees with no guarantee, which is mandatory for the post.

According to details, in Karachi the USC established about 80 outlets and half of them were under the control of persons, who are appointed on daily wages. The daily wager refers to a person hired for one day only and can be removed from job as the required labor is fulfilled.

USC is administered under the Ministry of Industries and Production, government of Pakistan and the organization is currently running on self-reliance basis. But, considering the present situation it is anticipated that more cases would appear regarding embezzlement by daily wage staff.

Recently, a store in-charge at Gwadar incurred a loss of about Rs3.7 million to the organization and fled to Iran. The sources said that since store in-charge appointed on daily wages and had not provided any personal guarantee or deposited any security therefore the corporation failed to recover any amount.

The USC officials said that the daily wagers were deliberately assigned to hold the charge of an outlet and entire chain of officers were involved behind this. They said that there was ban on employment for the last several years so the corporation hired daily wage staff to help out the contractual/permanent employees but the present hiring was under influence of political parties or by taking bribe against the job.

An official on condition of anonymity said that the most productive stores with high sales had been given to daily wage staff where the area manager and the regional manager took their share on price adjustment of essential items and black-marketing of those goods having difference in prices compared with local market.

The official also said that to get charge of a productive store the daily wagers also provide handsome amount to the senior USC officials.

These daily wagers are mainly associated with two leading political parties of Sindh, the sources said.
A senior official said that after Ramazan there were information that some daily wagers supported by Regional Managers and Area Managers in Karachi had plotted to inflict losses to the corporation through embezzlement.

The official said that many stores where daily wage staff had been appointed as store in-charge had not up-to-date inventory control ledgers, details of debit notes and credit notes besides the record of price variation.

There has been massive adjustment of amount in those stores during previous audits and stock-takings. The official said that through these adjustments the store in-charges had increased their inventory on the records and the audits would found that the physical inventory would be very less.