ISLAMABAD: Although the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has often criticised other governments for not utilising development funds in their areas, district governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have only spent 40 per cent of the total funds released to them in the two years since their formation.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the first province to elect local governments in the country, and its local government act envisioned that 30pc of the provincial development budget would be set aside and distributed among the three tiers of local government: the district councils, tehsil municipal administrations and village/neighbourhood councils.
Official figures available with Dawn show the trends of utilisation of development funds by 25 district governments over the past two years.
The data reveals that the total amount released was Rs12.1 billion, while only Rs4.9bn was utilised between 2015 and 2017. The actual releases were also short of the targets. For example, the projection for the district annual development programme was Rs10bn in 2016-17, but the actual amount released was Rs8.5bn.
No uplift expenditure in Kohistan, Tank; Bannu manages to spend all its allocated funds
The numbers reveal that only eight districts actually utilised over 50pc of their development budget during this period, and Bannu was the only district where all such funds had actually been spent.
One of the factors identified for the non-utilisation of funds is the issue of capacity, while a delay in the transfer of funds from the finance department was another reason for under-utilisation of the monies.
As per the official figures, the largest chunk of Rs1.1bn was released to Peshawar district, while the smallest allocation was Rs236.2m and Rs282.5m released to Chitral and Tank, respectively.
Bannu, with an allocation of Rs490.2m, was the district with the highest utilisation ratio (100pc), while Kohistan and Tank were unable to spend any of the monies released to them over the past two years.
Similarly, no funds were spent by Abbottabad in the year 2016-17, even though a total of Rs564m was released for the district, of which nearly Rs3m was utilised in the first year.
Analysis of the data revealed that most of the largest districts, and those performing well in terms of socio-economic indicators — Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera, Mardan, Mansehra and Kohat — showed poor performance in terms of fund utilisation.
Although Peshawar received the lion’s share of development funds, it only managed to spend 60pc of it. The next largest release of Rs859.9bn went to Mardan, which could only use 33pc. Only 13pc of the Rs788.5m given to Swat was spent, while Mansehra received Rs641.4m, but utilised just over half of the funds. Of the Rs591m given to Charsadda, around 49pc was spent on development activities.
Karak had the second highest utilisation ratio in the province, spending 65pc of the Rs358.3m released to it, while Lakki Marwat used 55pc of the Rs406.8m it received.
Haripur spent 54pc of its Rs398.6m grant, while Shangla used 53pc of the Rs357m it received. Although scoring low on most socio-economic indicators, Shangla had the highest rate of utilisation proportionate to the releases.
According to the DFID-funded sub-national governance programme in KP, the average combined utilisation of development funds is higher in districts such as Nowshera, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Haripur, when compared to average utilisation in other districts.
In Dera Ismail Khan, only 30pc of the Rs524.6m development budget was utilised, while Buner spent 35pc of the released amount of Rs375.3m.
Local government spending in Lower Dir stood at 44pc of the Rs458.6m allocated to it, while 31pc of the Rs479.7m given to Upper Dir was utilised, indicating that the governments led by the Jamaat-i-Islami in these areas were not performing up to the mark.
Torghar used 45pc of the Rs250m allocated to it, while Kohat ended up spending 36pc of the Rs350m given to it. The latter is the only district where the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz formed the district government.
Battagram saw the second lowest utilisation of development funds, as a mere 13pc of the Rs317.5m allocation was spent. In Hangu, the utilisation rate stood at 29pc against a total amount of Rs290.5m, while Chitral could only utilise 44pc of its Rs236.2m allocation. Malakand, however, managed to use over half of its Rs287.3m budget.
A finance department official of the province told Dawn that releases from the provincial government to the districts were made homogeneously and there was no bias in terms of fiscal transfers to local governments. Expenditures across the districts, however, were not homogeneous and exhibited great variation.
One of the major issues emerging from the local governments’ functioning was their capacity to utilise the funds, which was found to be lacking in most districts.
Councillors’ unwillingness to follow the rules regarding the utilisation of development expenditure and a lack of adequate institutional capacity to deal with the unprecedented budget remain the key impediments in the expeditious execution of development projects.
As per the existing system, the KP finance department can only keep utilisation records at the district government level; there is no mechanism to maintain such a record at the tehsil level.
However, an SMS-based system was recently developed to obtain details about spending at the level of nearly 3,501 village and/or neighbourhood councils in the province.
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2017