PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s multimillion rupees Biometric Attendance System has become dysfunctional in various departments since Sept last year due to the nonpayment of dues to a cellular phone company.The information gathered from different departments and institutions suggested that BAS had not been functioning in the Civil Secretariat, hospitals, colleges, schools and directorates in Peshawar and districts since a cellular company blocked its service due to nonpayment of dues by the government.

When contacted, the company declined to comment on the matter.

The provincial government is spending a hefty amount of money on the installation of BAS to ensure attendance of employees in main secretariat, offices, hospitals, schools, colleges and other institutions.

The Directorate of Information Technology was tasked in 2014 with installing BAS.

Officials told Dawn that BAS was being installed in all departments and relevant directorates across the province in different phases.

The government has allocated Rs81 million in the first phase to install the system in the Civil Secretariat, major hospitals and colleges, said a source.

Govt hasn’t paid dues to cellular company for long

Under the project, the directorate will develop software, install hardware and provide subscriber identity modules (SIMs) in main departments, their subordinate directorates, and educational institutions.

The directorate provided biometric devices to the relevant departments.

An official in the information technology directorate confirmed that the cellular company would have suspended service and therefore, BAS didn’t function.

He said the directorate had already intimated the departments concerned to clear dues before the expiry of SIMs.

“The cellular company may have blocked the system due to nonpayment of dues,” he said.

The official said under the agreement, the company would charge Rs270 for one gigabyte.

He said the secretariat was intimated that the company might block SIMs after Nov 2016 due to nonpayment of dues.

The official added that similarly, other departments and directorates were informed about the blockade of SIMs over non-payment of dues.

“Our job was to install the system and pay charges in advance to the company for a specific time. After one year, the department concerned is responsible for the regular payment of dues for the service,” he said.

BAS was a major initiative of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government to counter absenteeism in government departments, especially schools and hospitals, to improve performance.

Its objective was to ensure the real-time monitoring of attendance via online dashboard, identification of ghost employees and ensuring of the productivity of offices.

Absenteeism is a major issue in public sector organisations, especially schools, hospitals and other service delivery institutions.

Initially, the government employees particularly those working in health and education departments strongly opposed BAS. The employee’s finger is scanned through the system to ensure his/her attendance in the office.

According to the officials, BAS has been installed in all departments in the secretariat and attached directorates.

The facility has been installed at Lady Reading Hospital, Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar, Ayub Teaching Hospital in Abbottabad and Mardan Medical Complex in Mardan along with Khyber Girls Medical College and Institute of Kidney Diseases Peshawar.

In education sector, BAS has been installed in 270 postgraduate, degree and commerce colleges and vocational institutions.

In addition, 36 schools of Peshawar, too, have BAS facilities.

Officials said 400 schools in different districts would get BAS by the end of March.