ISLAMABAD: A Senate Panel on Monday termed as ‘bribery’ the induction of 42 projects in the development portfolio after the approval of the federal budget 2019-20 by the parliament and took strong exception to non-cooperation of the Ministry of Planning in investigating the matter.
A three-member sub-committee led by Mir Kabir Ahmad Shahi and comprising Usman Kakar and Eng Rukhsana Zubairi was constituted by the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development to probe into inclusion of development schemes after the budget had been passed by the parliament.
The sub-committee on Monday expressed its displeasure over the absence of minister for planning, deputy chairman Planning Commission and the secretary planning from the meeting despite the fact that schedule of the meeting had been finalised in consultation with the relevant authorities.
They also criticised the planning ministry for not providing details and explanations of the projects included in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20 after the budget books had been published and placed before the two houses and passed as part of budget 2019-20.
42 projects inducted into PSDP after parliament approved budget
The senators were flabbergasted over a three-paragraph brief on the issue and asked a planning ministry’s team led by an additional secretary if they had additional details about these controversial projects and satisfy the member’s queries.
The team reported that the top brass of the planning ministry were unavailable due to a simultaneous meeting of the Central Development Working Party that was finalised on Friday last. The responses to the questions were found dissatisfactory and belated inclusion of projects in the PSDP considered politically motivated.
The sub-committee recorded its protest that the secretary planning had written a letter on Monday morning about his non-availability while the minister had not even bothered to inform the Senate Panel about his absence.
The senators said this sort of non-cooperation of the planning ministry was unacceptable and directed the minister and the secretary planning to ensure their presence to the next meeting along with full record of the specific projects, their geographical locations, cost of each project and the justification thereof.
Shahi said it was unfortunate that parliamentary committees were being ignored by the government departments.
He said the senate standing committee on planning had recommended a list of few projects from across the four provinces for inclusion in the PSDP during the course of parliamentary deliberations on budget proposals. These proposals were then jointly recommended by the senate but the planning ministry had taken the stance that PSDP had been approved and the budget books got printed and hence schemes recommended by the senate could not be considered for FY20.
Strangely, however, a total of 42 new schemes worth Rs17bn were added to the PSDP and the budget to secure political support of Balochistan National Party chief Akhtar Mengal and those in South Punjab to get the budget passed, said Usman Kakar.
“This is blatant bribery for which public funds were used,” he said.
He said no details were provided to the parliament or its committees about these projects and media, national accountability bureau and so-called institutions were criminally silent on these violations of rules and procedures.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019