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PESHAWAR: The civil secretariat of the defunct Federally Administered Tribal Areas is gearing up to put the finishing touches on the multibillion rupees annual development programme for financial year 2018-19 amid confusion over the role of the secretariat after the Fata-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa merger.

A debate has sprung in the official circles about whether or not it is unconstitutional on part of the secretariat to prepare ADP for the merged territories.

The officials concerned seem puzzled about if the ADP worth Rs22 billion requires the chief minister’s approval.

“The financial and administrative matters have been diluted after the 25th Constitutional Amendment,” said one official, who is dealing with the financial matters of the merged districts.

He said the secretariat had yet to decide the title of the document that carried the details of the ADP for seven tribal districts.

“There is a big confusion and ambiguity,” he said.

Secretariat finalising 2018-19 ADP for tribal districts

Before the constitutional amendment, which merged Fata with KP, the provincial governor, an agent to the president for the erstwhile Fata, used to sign the document carrying details of the ADP, which officials described as a mere ritual.

They said the governor, who was declared the chief executive for erstwhile Fata through SRO in 2007, had the administrative powers, while the additional chief secretary (ACS) of Fata was entrusted as the principal accounting officer.

Under the constitutional amendment, particularly the omission of Article 247, the administrative and financial powers, which rested in the governor and ACS Fata, have been delegated to the province.

Regardless of the constitutional amendment and the subsequent merger of tribal agencies with KP, the secretariat is still managing all financial and administrative affairs in the defunct Fata. No official of the secretariat agreed to comment on the issue.

The secretariat had convened meeting of the Fata Working Development Party (FWDP) on July 25 to approve funds for development schemes. The chief economist of KP was invited to attend the FWDP meeting as observer.

Sources said fresh appointments had been made to the secretariat although the incumbent ACS had no such authority. “After the constitutional amendment all functions and activities in the secretariat on financial and administrative sides are unconstitutional and illegal,” said a senior bureaucrat.

He wondered under which authority the secretariat was preparing the ADP for seven districts when the word ‘Fata’ had been omitted from the Constitution and all powers had been delegated to the province.

“Unfortunately, some people don’t want to close this shop (secretariat),” he said, adding that the Provincial Development Working Party was supposed to replace the FWDP and its recent meetings were unconstitutional.

Another senior official insisted that the KP rules of business directly applied to those seven districts after the passing of the constitutional amendment and that there was no legal provision for two ACSs working simultaneously in the province.

Officials in the civil secretariat for the defunct Fata opined that since the federal government had made allocations in the ADP for tribal districts, it was not the provincial government’s prerogative to interfere in the federal releases.

They said the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenues was still maintaining the accounting system in the erstwhile Fata and the civil secretariat had yet to pass the buck to the Accountant General KP. They added that the federal government was currently bearing all administrative expenditure of the secretariat.

A senior official of the provincial bureaucracy argued that parliament had already passed budget, including ADP, for seven tribal districts and so, it didn’t require approval of the provincial chief minister.

He said the new ADP covered only the ongoing schemes in tribal districts for which expenditure, including administrative ones, were sanctioned by the federal government in the previous budget. “Without including new schemes the proposed ADP does not require fresh approval,” he said.

In its annual budget for 2018-19, the federal government had approved Rs22 billon ADP for the newly-merged tribal districts. The sector-wise allocation of the ADP in seven districts is in progress and work is likely to be finalised within one week.

Sources said new schemes had been included in the proposed ADP and 30 per cent of the total allocated amount would go for new schemes and the rest for ongoing ones.

Officials in the secretariat are weighing two options, either to put up the new ADP to the next chief minister for approval or send it to the office of the chief secretary.

“A decision to this effect is pending,” said an official in the planning and development department of the secretariat for the tribal districts.

Caretaker finance minister Abdur Rauf Khattak said tribal districts had become part of KP and the federal government didn’t have powers to control the fiscal or other matters of those areas.

He said the chief minister would give the sector-wise approval to ADP for those areas, while the provincial government would prepare the next ADP for those districts.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018