ISLAMABAD: Making a slow beginning, the government has disbursed only Rs15.4 billion to the country’s development programme in the first month of the current fiscal year, down 32 per cent from the comparable period last year.

According to official data released by the Planning Commission, the total disbursement of Rs15.4bn for the Public Sector Development programme (PSDP) in the first month (July) of the current fiscal year accounted for 2.68pc of an annual allocation of about Rs575bn.

In comparison, the government had released Rs22.784bn for the PSDP during the same period last year which amounted to 2.76pc of the total allocation of Rs825bn for that year.

The Planning Commission reported that as of August 9 this year, an amount of Rs10.256bn was released for development programme of federal ministries and divisions, compared to Rs17.9bn during the same period last year, showing a reduction of almost 43pc.

The amount is 32pc less than what was released in July last year

The data showed that like last year no funds were disbursed in the first month for the prime minister’s six special programmes managed through block allocations by the finance ministry for which a total of Rs126bn has been allocated for the current year.

No funds were provided either to the National Highway Authority (NHA), power sector and Gilgit-Baltistan with a total allocation of Rs155bn, Rs43bn and Rs17.5bn, respectively. Azad Kashmir has been provided Rs4.66bn so far this year, compared to Rs4.74bn last year.

The government has also released Rs4.447bn to the Higher Education Commission so far this year, compared to Rs4.632bn during the same period last year, while Rs4.27bn has been provided to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission this year against Rs4.628bn during the same period last year. The railways ministry has been given no funds so far this year, compared to Rs3.34bn during the same period last year.

This comes following a fresh policy for release of funds for the fiscal year 2019-20 notified by the finance ministry a few days ago. All ministries, divisions, provincial and regional governments have been directed to follow the notified strategy for release of funds relating to current and development expenditure for financial year 2019-20 before effecting the payment.

Under the new policy, funds for current and development expenditure have to be released at the level of 20pc each for the first and second quarters, and at the level of 30pc each for the third and fourth quarters, except disbursement of funds required for payment of salaries and pensions that could go up to 25pc of budget for each quarter.

The cases relating to international and domestic contractual or obligatory payments beyond the above limits shall be considered on a case-to-case basis and relaxation shall require prior approval of the finance secretary.

Under the policy, organisations and entities that are provided single-line budge are required to provide their annual budget, including detailed head-wise expenditure and own receipts for the current financial year and last financial year.

The notification said that all payments shall be made through the pre-audit system of the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR), or through assignment account procedures issued by the Finance Division. Any direct payment through the State Bank of Pakistan shall be made as a special case, with the prior approval of the finance secretary.

All the ministries, divisions and entities have been directed to route their proposals for supplementary grants or technical supplementary grants through the budget wing of the Finance Division under a template provided to them before their approval by the finance ministry for onward submission to the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet.

About the PSDP, the finance ministry has notified that no funds shall be released for un-approved projects and funds for the first quarter, not exceeding Rs500 million, shall be released by the Planning Division. Amounts exceeding Rs500m shall be referred to the budget wing of Finance Division for ways and means of clearance.

Funds for the second quarter onwards will be recommended by the Planning Division after due examination and scrutiny to the Finance Division for ways and means of clearance along with a cash or work plan, utilisation report of funds duly reconciled with the AGPR and approval of the principal accounting officer of the ministry or division concerned. If no funds have been released for any project during the first two quarters, only 40pc of the allocation would be released for the remaining two quarters.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2019