Public Accounts Committee questions ministries over undue Covid package spending

Published July 27, 2021
PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs the committee meeting at Parliament House on Monday. — Photo courtesy PAC website
PAC Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain chairs the committee meeting at Parliament House on Monday. — Photo courtesy PAC website

ISLAMABAD: While expressing its concerns over undue spending of billions of rupees out of Rs1.240 trillion economic stimulus package announced by the prime minister to shield the masses against the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday sought a detailed briefing from the ministries concerned.

Presiding over the meeting, PAC chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain questioned the release of funds to majority of ministries saying the package was meant for Covid-19 related operations only since the government makes allocations for Utility Stores Corporation (USC), Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) and other departments in the budget.

Finance Secretary Yusaf Khan informed the PAC that the economic stimulus package announced on March 24, 2020 carried Rs875bn as cash assistance and Rs365bn as non-cash including tax exemptions and financial guarantees.

He said under the package Rs190bn was earmarked for emergency response, Rs570bn for relief to citizens and Rs480bn to support business community and economy. Under the emergency relief Rs25bn was allocated to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Rs50bn for Medical Corps, Ministry of National Health Service etc.

The government released Rs18bn to NDMA in FY20 and Rs1.8bn in FY21. Medical Corps was released Rs8.4bn and Rs4.8bn, respectively, in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The Ministry of National Health Service received Rs1.4bn and Rs25.6bn in the same period.

The Finance Division documents further showed under Rs100bn residual/emergency relief fund, a sum of Rs76.6bn was released for purchase of Covid-19 vaccines by NDMA, FBR to make refund payments and AJK and Gilgit Baltistan for education.

While Rs15bn non-cash funds were executed through statuary regulatory orders (SROs) for tax relief on food and health items.

The official statistics further stated that Rs200bn was allocated for disbursement to daily wage workers through BISP, but only Rs16bn was released because the BISP had utilised its own resources to compensate the affected daily wage workers during the pandemic.

However, the BISP and PBM jointly spent Rs145bn for vulnerable families and Panagah during the period. Ministry of Industries spent Rs10bn out of Rs50bn for USC subsidy, Power Division Rs15bn and Rs41bn out of Rs100bn in FY20 and FY21.

The finance division executed Rs70bn as relief on petrol/diesel.

Moreover, Rs70bn was released to FBR and Rs30bn to Commerce Division to provide relief to exporters, Rs51bn released to Power Division for small and medium enterprises for deferment of electricity bills. An amount of Rs15.6bn was released to Ministry of National Food Security for agriculture and Rs280bn to Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Service Corporation for payment to wheat farmers.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N sought details of funds utilised for tax relief and subsidies for petroleum and power sectors.

Noor Alam of PTI termed this as making mockery of budgeting since a huge amount was released for Panagah (shelters), power sector, FBR and USC.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021

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