ABBOTTABAD: Community social organisations (CSOs) from 12 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa adopted a citizen charter of demand (COD) for reforming the province’s public finance management during a people’s assembly held here the other day.

The COD includes demand for a fair and transparent Provincial Finance Commission Award that is applied to the entire development portfolio. Mechanisms for public participation in budgets were also recommended. It would be presented to the government and public representatives from KP.

The People’s Assembly on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Budget 2019-20 was organised by Omar Asghar Khan Foundation.

More than 150 women and 200 men representing CSOs from 12 districts, including Abbottabad, Battagram, Dera Ismail Khan, Haripur, Karak, Kohat, Mansehra, Mardan, Nowshera, Peshawar, Shangla and Swat attended the event.

The Foundation presented its analysis of district-wise distribution of development funds, sectoral allocations, fiscal decentralisation, gender-based budgets, and trends in block funds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Budget 2019-20 and assessments of the province’s budgets over the past 10 years.

“Budgets often seem daunting with figures in millions and billions of rupees. But it is important to understand that budgets have a direct link with the availability of medicines in a village basic health unit, provision of drinking water in a village council, regular disposal of garbage in urban neighbourhoods, and construction of rural link roads,” explained the Foundation’s executive director Rashida Dohad.

The data and analysis will help the participating CSOs in more effectively engaging with the government to improve the conditions of public schools, healthcare facilities, roads, drinking water and other public services, she added.

Ms Rashida Dohad said the CSOs had been trained by the Foundation since 2017 to use social accountability as a tool to engage and work with elected councillors, public representatives and government officials in improving the public service delivery.

“If Rs21 million is the total development allocation for Battagram, how can the needs of people be met,” questioned Mr Dilfaraz from Battagram’s Kolay village.

“If funds within districts are not fairly distributed even resource-rich districts will have big pockets of poverty,” said Mr Jehanzeb from Swat.

“People’s voices must be included in deciding the use of public funds,” said Ms Sehar Naeem, a former councillor from Haripur.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019