LAHORE, June 28: The Opposition in the Punjab Assembly censured the treasury benches on Friday for tabling a huge Rs82.38 billion supplementary budget in the assembly that stands almost 75 per cent of Balochistan’s regular budget.
The opposition, including a treasury member, demanded that assembly’s standing committees and assembly members be empowered to approve the “carefree expenditure by bureaucracy and the chief minister”.
Beginning the debate, Opposition Leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said the presentation of supplementary budget worth billions of rupees was not a good tradition. He said the government had allocated Rs48 million for CCTV cameras but no cameras were installed at polling stations during the May 11 general elections. In the supplementary budget, he said, the government allocated Rs48 million for cash awards for officials for making chief minister’s dream “Jangla Bus Service”, and Rs3.44 billion for police. PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal said the chief minister had spent huge funds on his discretion.
He said that it was a matter of grave concern for the Punjab Assembly that bureaucracy was preparing budget and spending it lavishly on chief minister’s whims while assembly members were being asked to approve over Rs82 billion expenditures beyond the regular budget. He demanded that the speaker ensure the respect and authority of the members.
He said the supplementary budget document boggled his mind because public money was spent in a carefree manner. Reading out various allocations worth millions of rupees in the supplementary budget, he said it seemed the government was run like Mughal emperors during the current financial year.
He suggested that the Punjab Assembly reject the supplementary budget at the end of the financial year but at the time when the budget was being spent during a financial year. “It is a pity that the budget was spent when there were other elected public representatives and now being approved by different public representatives,” he said.
Here in Punjab, he said, the bureaucracy got its plans of making budgets and expenditures ratified by the assembly. He said that there was no detail of budgets and it seemed that the assembly had been asked to sign it without questioning. There was no accountability system in the budget book, he said, adding that Rs82 billion supplementary budget was almost 75 per cent of Balochistan’s regular budget. “Where is good governance?” he said.
He said it was a matter of grave concern that people were still not being provided safe drinking water even in the provincial metropolis. “Why is the PML-N government not fulfilling its commitments made during election campaign and mentioned in its manifesto?” he said.
Referring to loan from State Bank of Pakistan for the purchase of wheat and rice, Mr Iqbal said whether the government did not know when it was to buy wheat and rice. Still, he said, the government got loan from the SBP and then returned it with interest – generated from direct taxes levied on poor masses.
He demanded the assembly’s standing committees be empowered to question the bureaucracy about additional expenditures. PML-N’s Aysha Javed also demanded that standing committees be strengthened to thrash out supplementary budgets.
Criticising chief minister’s discretion to give grants to people, Mr Iqbal regretted that the chief minister awarded cash grants to 700 people. Referring to grants for medical treatment abroad particularly in India, he stressed that the chief minister should spend money on developing treatment facilities within the province because qualified doctors were available in the province.
PTI’s Saadia Suhail said the supplementary budget was the representative of government’s incompetence. She said police was given huge funds but it had failed to give performance in strengthening law and order situation accordingly.
Concluding the debate, Punjab Finance Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman said the supplementary budgets were used in unavoidable circumstances. Of the Rs82 billion supplementary budget, he said, Rs38 billion were spent on wheat purchase and Rs28 billion were spent due to technical reasons. “Only Rs17 billion were spent as a supplementary budget, which make only 3.5 per cent of the recurring budget. The government can spend up to 10 per cent of the recurring budget as supplementary budget,” he asserted. He said it was welcoming that the government had spent some Rs10 billion over and above the regular budget on education.
As the speaker was winding-up Friday’s proceedings, PTI’s Arif Abbasi pointed out broken quorum. Speaker snubbed Abbasi and also admonished the assembly staff for giving mike to the member.
Earlier in the day, PML-N’s Shaukat Aziz Bhatti submitted a privilege motion against police in Gujjar Khan tehsil where police tried to poll fake votes in the May 11 elections and later four people were killed and two injured. He said that police did not listen to him and tried to damage the case technically. In a harsh tone, he said, that his privilege had been breached and added, “If our voice is not even be heard in this house, then I will give a damn to this house.”
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah objected to the comment and demanded that the member seek apology for his uncalled for remark for the house. The speaker also endorsed and eventually Mr Bhatti sought apology from the house.
Earlier, Zill-e-Huma, MPA elected on PML-N’s women reserve seats, took oath as MPA.