Lost in a bureaucratic maze

Updated 06 Jul 2015


The most pressing question about KLB is about what the money has achieved.

“KLB has become synonymous with all that is problematic about large-scale development assistance,” says Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC. “It is a tale of so much money authorised, but much less spent. And we don’t even hear about what has been spent, which is a shame because KLB has produced some very successful projects.”

Since October 2009, USAID has built over 1,000 km of roads in FATA and KP, almost 1,000 schools,150 health units, a new hospital in Jacobabad, the emergency ward of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center in Karachi, helped complete two dams, rehabilitated four power plants, and built and repaired hundreds of hotels and fisheries in Swat Valley.

KLB emphasised infrastructure in order to ensure that Pakistanis could “see” the money, but it still ended up facing criticism that the aid did not trickle down.

Insiders admit that results have been slow to come by, if they have materialized at all. For example, USAID has been committed to the construction of a hydropower plant at Kurram Tangi Dam in North Waziristan since 2012. To date, only a $7.2 million study has been completed.

USAID finally committed $81 million to the project in 2014, but since then Wapda has been slow to move.

Indeed, explanations for the slow progress of programmes read like a tragedy in bureaucratic inefficiency, on all sides.

For example, the most recent audit by USAID’s independent Inspector General found that an $84.75 million agreement with KP’s Planning and Development Department to improve municipal infrastructure and services had not achieved much in three years.

“Only a few small activities have been completed in Peshawar, such as the rehabilitation of four water supply systems, the cleaning of drains in 12 areas, and the procurement of various solid waste management vehicles and equipment,” the report says.

Unsurprisingly, the report adds that only 5.8 percent of the funding was disbursed.

The USAID mission’s official response to the audit describes the bureaucratic hold-ups that put the programme behind schedule – by years.

Both the US and Pakistani governments were to blame: the KP government spent nearly two years developing a master plan to execute the funds, following which USAID spent nearly another two years doing an environmental assessment of two water treatment plants in that plan.

USAID conceived of its projects in Pakistan as a flagship case in Government-to-Government programming (G2G) – an effort to get away from private contractors. But a better label for it would be B2B, or Bureaucracy-to-Bureaucracy, with contractors often acting on behalf of the Pakistani government. Another audit by the inspector general demonstrates the inadequacy of brick-and-mortar projects, even when successfully constructed.

The audit warns that a $17 million state-of-the-art medical institute built in Jacobabad, Sindh, could become as dilapidated as the hospital it was built to replace because the government did not budget money for its operation and maintenance. The report also cites government officials who fear that nepotism will mar the hiring process and suggest outsourcing to a non-governmental organisation.

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Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2015

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