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PESHAWAR: The UK Department for International Development has reduced the Rs10.94 billion grant for the school construction and rehabilitation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by Rs1.25 billion over its contractor’s failure to use the money allocated for 2016-17.

The elementary and secondary education department’s role in the programme is just to identify schools to be built or rehabilitated until 2020, say the relevant officials.

According to them, work on the project began last year after the DFID hired the International Management Consultant for its execution.

The officials told Dawn that the DFID had pledged a total of 80 million pounds for its school construction and rehabilitation programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

They however said the DFID formally informed the department lately that it had slashed 9.24 million pounds from the pledged grant over the non-utilisation of all the funds allocated for the purpose last year.

“The total budget available for this programme, including capital works, has been reduced from 80 million pounds (Rs10.94 billion) to 70.76 million pounds (Rs9.67 billion). The reduction is due to an ‘underspending’ of 9.24 million pounds (Rs1.25 billion) in the first year of (programme’s) implementation,” read the DFID letter available with Dawn.

Move comes over contractor’s failure to use 2016-17 funds

According to the letter, under the agreement, the IMC will carry out work in 202 higher secondary schools to build 1,238 new classrooms and 1,466 classrooms, examination halls, IT labs, staff rooms, toilets, guard huts etc.

The IMC will also work in 278 primary schools for the construction of 375 new classrooms.

The officials insisted that the education department was not responsible for non-utilisation of the grant and instead, the entire responsibility in that respect rested with the IMC.

They said in the entire programme, the education department’s role was very limited as it was tasked with only identifying schools for the IMC to construct or rehabilitate.

The officials questioned the DFID’s decision asking why the grant promised to the education department had been slashed for the reasons it was not responsible for.

They said when the use of the DFID’s budgetary support for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was smooth and efficient, why the former didn’t divert the funds spent through the ‘inefficient’ IMC.

The officials said the education department had also reservations about the quality of work done by the IMC.

A senior official in the education department claimed that the reduction in the school construction and rehabilitation funding hadn’t been finalised by the DFID and instead, it was under deliberation.

He said the department would take up the matter with the DFID soon.

When contacted, regional head of the IMC Rafiq Khattak refused to comment on the unspent funds saying he was not authorised to speak to the media.

He asked the correspondent to approach the Islamabad-based DFID high-ups for version on the matter.

However, when an email was sent to the relevant staff member of the DFID, Islamabad, offices, Dawn got a response on the matter from the British High Commission, Islamabad.

In the reply, the BHC said, “it is a longstanding policy of the UK government not to comment on leaked documents.”

It said the UK invested more in Pakistan’s development than it did in any other country, and that its education programmes in Pakistan were the biggest development programmes it had carried out in the world.

The BHC also said in KP alone, the British government had helped the KP government build over 1,400 girls community schools in remote areas since 2012.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2017