Waseem Abbasi ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has initiated a probe against National Testing Service (NTS), for irregularities in its bidding procedure, non professional staff and breach of candidate’s privacy, It has been learnt. A spokesman of the Bureau confirmed that the anti-corruption watchdog is investigation NTS after receiving a complaint against the company, a private firm which is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) under The Companies Ordinance, 1984. Last year Lahore High Court had declared the National Testing Service (a private firm) illegal and directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to ensure that no private firms conducted tests as long as a “national testing service was not constituted through proper legislation”. Sources said NAB has received complaints about leakage of private data of candidates including the phone numbers of female candidates, their dates of birth and their Identity Card numbers. Sources said the complaints about the non-professional test takers and poor quality of assessment were also received by the Bureau. However, despite the LHC orders various public bodies including NAB are using the services of NTS for hiring new employees as there are only few other testing services available in the country. When contacted NAB spokesman Nawazish Ali Asim told this correspondent that the probe against NTS is at initial stage. He defended the decision of the Bureau to hire NTS for the recruitment of Additional Directors, Assistant Directors, Investigation Officers and Stenographers. He said the Establishment Division has issued a circular directing the public bodies to make recruitments through NTS. “We are following the directions of Establishment Division with regard to use of NTS services,” Asim said. He said the probe against NTS is about irregularities in bidding process as some departments hire the testing services without proper bidding and analyzing the other competitors of NTS. “We are not probing their testing system. Its more about procedure,” he said. When contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of NTS Dr. Haroon Rashid said he was not aware of any NAB investigation against the company. “Our company is working to improve testing and assessment system in Pakistan through quality services. This is the reason why several organizations including NAB are using our services,” he said. Dr Haroon strongly refuted allegations of the privacy breach. “We have hired one of the best international firms to test our online security and privacy and we are now satisfied with the measures we have taken to ensure the data protection,” he said. To a question, he said: “everyone complaints about higher fees being charges by NTS but no one bothers to take a look at expenses we have to bear to arrange these tests. Yes Federal Public Service Commission charges only Rs300 from the candidates but it receives heavy subsidy from the government,” he added. He said HEC has discontinued services of NTS after the Lahore High Court Orders and currently they are in the process of hiring a testing service through legal procedure. “NTS has also applied to offer its services for HEC and currently the Commission is evaluating offers from various companies,” Dr Haroon added. He said Establishment Division has not issued any circular for the government departments to use NTS services for hiring.