0% utilisation of funds in 346 education,schemes in Sindh

KARACHI:10 May: With the planning and finance department officials busy finalising the upcoming budget for 2017-2018, official documents available with The Express Tribune reveal 0% utilisation of 346 schemes’ funds in the education and health departments in the last nine months.

According to the budget execution report released by the finance department, there are around 396 development schemes in the education department pertaining to the construction of schools, colleges, renovation of buildings and providing missing facilities but not a single penny has been spent on as many as 270 schemes even after the passage of three quarters.

“The government has allocated Rs650 million for the establishment of preschool education in all the divisions of Sindh. The finance department released Rs340 million but there is 0% utilisation on these schemes,” an official in the department said, sharing data that states that Rs35 million has been earmarked under this scheme for Hyderabad division and the finance department has also released Rs25 million but, again, there is 0% utilisation.

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“In terms of utilisation of funds, there is poor performance in all the government departments. The total annual development budget of the province is Rs250 billion but the government has spent barely Rs85 billion so far,” revealed sources in the finance department.

According to a finance department progress report, the education department was to introduce computer education at primary school level in various districts of Sindh but has not. “Around Rs70 million is available in the budget books and the finance department has released Rs25 million, but no one dared utilise the funds,” said sources, adding that millions of funds for the upgrade of schools from primary to secondary education levels are available but these funds will again remain untouched.

The report further revealed that the government had to initiate work on Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Girls Cadet College in Larkana at an estimated cost of Rs427 million and released Rs10 million this year, but nothing has been spent.

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In the education department there are around Rs13 billion development budget funds. A senior official requesting anonymity said that ill planning in the schemes and fear of being arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is another factor behind the lack of fund utilisation. “There are major lacunae in drafting the schemes, if officials execute any project then NAB or other agencies take action, so fear prevails in the ranks of government officials who are avoiding initiating these schemes,” explained an officer. He added that in many cases the finance department adopts delay tactics in releasing the funds, which also causes problems.

“I think the government should assign responsibility and take action against those who are held responsible for not releasing or using the available funds,” another official suggested.

The data also said that out of 153 total development schemes in the health department, 76 schemes are stagnant, as not a single penny has been spent on them. The upgrade of maternity hospitals, construction of basic health centres and establishment of laboratories are among other schemes for which millions of rupees have been allocated but not utilised.

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Opposition members in the Sindh Assembly call this the government’s incompetency and allege that the finance department is promoting a commission system in the release of funds. “The Pakistan Peoples Party government’s main motive is to mint money rather than spending it on public schemes,” Pakistan Muslim League – Functional Parliamentary Leader Nand Kumar told The Express Tribune.

He said that in the finance department, funds are not released until people grease the palms of bureaucrats.

The spokesperson for the education department justified his department’s role and said that some schemes are in the process, as government has awarded tenders and work has not been initiated yet. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has told the media that the government has used around Rs90 billion of the total Rs225 billion development budget in the past nine months and this amount was more than the last financial year. “We are making efforts to release and utilise the funds as much as we can do,” he claimed.

Despite repeated attempts, the health minister and secretary could not be contacted for their version. Meanwhile, Health Director-General Dr Mohammad Taufeeq said budget utilisation could be accurately measured after June, as normally documents and the tender process take time to be completed. “There were some legal hitches in a few projects, which is why the development work has not been started,” he said. Express Tribune.