Govt doles out billions to MPs at its fag end | The Express Tribune

The outgoing government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has spent 99% of the total public sector development spending during his last six weeks in power on the parliamentarians’ schemes by blocking expenditures on other critical projects.

The details showed that since the start of the current fiscal year on July 1, the federal government spent Rs10.5 billion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). Out of this, Rs10.4 billion or 99% of the spending was on the schemes recommended by the members of parliament, showed the details.

In total, the planning ministry authorised Rs129 billion worth of spending, including Rs61.3 billion for the parliamentarians’ schemes. But the actual spending out of the Rs129 billion authorisations was Rs10.5 billion.

After the development allocations in the budget, the Ministry of Planning issues the authorisation orders based on the quarterly ceilings set by the finance ministry. But the money is not automatically spent until it passes through the checks by the Ministry of Finance.

Against Rs129 billion authorisation orders by the planning ministry, the actual spending was hardly 8.2% during the current fiscal year 2023-24.

The spending on the projects being recommended by the members of parliament picked the pace ahead of the dissolution of the National Assembly in the hope of influencing voters.

However, despite making allocations of Rs116 billion in the last fiscal year and Rs10.4 billion during the past 40 days, the outgoing government was still not confident about contesting the general elections in November.

For the current fiscal year, the PDM government had allocated Rs90 billion for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an acronym used for the parliamentarians’ schemes. The outgoing government wanted to release the entire amount during the first quarter.

During the very first month of the fiscal year, the government had handed over Rs61.3 billion to the Cabinet Division for onwards spending on the parliamentarians’ schemes. The amount was equal to 68% of the annual budget. This is in violation of the finance ministry’s guidelines.

As per the finance ministry guidelines, overall 15% of the annual budget can be used in the first quarter, but the ministry itself provided an exception to this clause to the extent of the parliamentarians’ schemes.

After amendments to the Elections Act of 2017, the caretaker government is now empowered to spend on the ongoing schemes. The sources said that the money left out of Rs61.3 billion SDGs authorisation, will be spent during the interim period.

The money for the parliamentarians’ schemes was given at the cost of other critical projects. As against the quarterly development spending ceiling of 15% or Rs131 billion out of total annual budget of Rs950 billion, no significant spending was made against other projects.

Last month, the finance ministry had issued the guidelines for the release of the funds, while keeping in mind the overall budget deficit ceiling. The finance ministry had authorised the release of 15% of the annual funds in the first quarter, another 20% in the second quarter, 25% in the third quarter and the remaining 40% in the last quarter of this fiscal year.

For the current fiscal year, the National Assembly had approved Rs950 billion for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), including Rs90 billion for the parliamentarians’ schemes.

After the release of over Rs61 billion for the parliamentarians’ schemes, only Rs70 billion is left for the rest of 1,100 PSDP projects for the first quarter of this fiscal year.

This impacted many critical projects. For instance, Pakistan Railways this fiscal year’s development budget is Rs33 billion. The Planning Ministry sanctioned Rs1.5 billion for spending but actual spending against the Railways projects was nil.

At least 30 people were killed and over 80 injured after as many as 10 bogies of Havelian-bound Hazara Express derailed on Sunday in Nawabshah district. Pakistan Railways compiled its joint report of the initial investigation into the Hazara Express accident in Sindh, saying that the incompetence of the civil and the mechanical departments was the cause of the train crash.

A story appeared in The Express Tribune stating that the report said that the track was broken, while the fish plates were not installed. Besides, defective wheels and tracks were also contributing factors in the accident.

The National Highway Authority was authorised to spend Rs37.4 billion last month but the actual spending was nil, showed the documents. The NHA’s annual budget is Rs156.5 billion.

For the Prime Minister’s various initiatives, the outgoing government had allocated Rs80 billion in the budget. But there was no spending during the last 40 days of the government.

Important ministries also could not get money for spending, although the planning ministry had issued authorization orders. As against the Higher Education Commission’s annual budget of Rs59.7 billion, the Planning Ministry issued authorization for Rs5 billion. But the spending remained at Rs31.3 million.

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