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LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Standing Committee on Education Chairman Engr Qamarul Islam Raja has said the government departments must ensure transparency in procurement matters.

He regretted that the government was putting in maximum resources but outcomes did not match them.

Mr Raja termed the procurement matters in most cases like a bucket without a bottom, while speaking at a launch of report and discussion on “Education sector procurements in Punjab: A horizontal accountability perspective” organised by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) in collaboration with Ilm Ideas at a local hotel on Tuesday.

Referring to school councils, he said, the problem was not with laws but the management at grassroots level.

He said every individual was trying that his children should get education and there was dearth of collective effort for the education of all children in the country. He also referred the case of South Korea, which grew from a scratch and progressed by leaps and bounds because the Korean leaders focussed more on education of the nation.

He hoped that wisdom would also prevail in the country and collective efforts be made for the education of masses. He stressed that the citizens themselves should come forward and lead their political leaders to make education their top priority.

Earlier, I-SAPS Research Fellow Ahmad Ali said the Punjab government was spending approximately Rs15 billion annually on development schemes in the school education department but there were serious issues of transparency in procurement matters as well as accountability.

Speaking of the monitoring and evaluation system in the government, he said there were a number of organisations looking at the working and performance of institutions expecting that leakage of funds was impossible. But, he said, the desired results were not being derived.

Mr Ali said the school education department was spending over Rs6 billion on schools’ civil works, Rs3.4 billion on the provision of free textbooks and Rs5 billion on school council purchases.

Still, he said, the challenge confronting the school education department was huge because it needed to construct some 51,951 new classrooms, provide electricity to 6,083 schools, construct boundary walls around 2,978 schools, toilets in 959 schools and provide potable water facility in 466 schools.

He also identified the approved development schemes in the school education department for the current fiscal comprising 205 upgradation of schools, 620 IT labs in high schools, 440 IT labs in elementary schools, 1,169 schemes of furniture for high schools, 1,043 schemes of reconstruction of dangerous school buildings, 96 cases of rehabilitation of flood-affected schools and missing facilities in 9,028 schools. He also elaborated the issues in procurement of schools construction, textbooks procurement, and procurement by school councils.

The I-SAPS Research Fellow stressed that accountability should be based on “cumulative effects of various mechanisms of control”, strengthening vistas for horizontal accountability in public sector institutions; strengthening the oversight functions and effective implementation of existing rules; ensuring transparency; proactive disclosure of information and public access to publication of procurement data on school education department website.

He called for training and capacity building of the departments concerned in ensuring quality of work, timelines etc. He stressed the strengthening of school councils, procurement rules, financial management and record keeping.

Mr Ali stressed that the role of public representatives and standing committees should be made proactive. He suggested that the quarterly procurements progress should be presented on the floor of the house besides publication of annual reports by the public sector departments detailing the procurement process, costs, timelines, complaints and their role.

SAHE Executive Director Abbas Rasheed and PTI MPAs Saadia Suhail and Shunila Ruth also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2015

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