LAHORE: Following in the footsteps of the party-led federal government to reduce expenditures, the Punjab government, too, has decided to restructure and reorganise its administrative departments.

The chief minister’s secretariat has constituted a 13-member strong committee of provincial ministers and administrative secretaries with senior minister Marriyum Aurangzeb its convenor.

The committee has been told to deliberate all issues comprehensively before recommending restructuring of departments with emphasis on avoiding overlapping, eliminating redundancies, reducing undesirable expenditures and achieving efficiency and excellence.

“The committee has been assigned to identify functions, which are being discharged by the Punjab government through excessive expenditures from the public exchequer and safeguard those assets and resources in public interest,” says a CM office announcement.

Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz has authorised the committee to recommend any other issue which seems important in public interest or pertains to the responsibility entrusted to it. Ms Nawaz has desired that the committee should submit its recommendations as well as a comprehensive plan of action within a period of 60 days.

13-member body given 60 days to submit plan

The committee members are ministers for finance and law; chief secretary, chairman of planning and development board, additional chief secretary S&GAD Punjab; additional chief secretary of South Punjab; principal secretary to the CM; secretary law; secretary finance; Lahore commissioner; secretary services S&GAD; and secretary (implementation and coordination) S&GAD. The secretary I&C will also act as the secretary to the committee. The committee, it is learnt, will draw its agenda and hold its maiden meeting next week.

While the Punjab government has constituted the committee to rationalise spending of public resources, some bureaucrats, seeking anonymity, expressed their deep pessimism over the initiative and believed that the new political government wanted to dismantle the work done by the previous PTI government and create its signature projects – sometimes by changing names and components.

A bureaucrat said one government starts establishing new departments, create new posts, while the successive political government begins by dismantling the earlier created entities after marathon consultations, discussions and spending lots of time and public resources.

One such major example is the creation of the South Punjab secretariat by the previous political government and grant of autonomous status through posting of administrative secretaries. The incumbent PML-N government withdrew administrative secretaries, granted charge of the departments to the administrative secretaries sitting in Lahore.

The government replaced the administrative secretaries by creating 10 new posts of special secretaries for South Punjab which is being seen as an attempt to reverse the decentralisaion of administrative powers.

The PTI government had in 2020 established a separate civil secretariat of 17 departments for South Punjab comprising Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions to address the developmental disparities between south and central Punjab.

Meanwhile, the present government is also in the process of creating new authorities, snatching administrative departments’ role and giving them under the control of other departments.

Sources in the CM secretariat told Dawn the government was now establishing a Punjab Enforcement Authority under the S&GAD (Services and General Administration Department) to primarily control prices, which had so far been the mandate of the industries department.

Since the chief minister has directed the committee to submit its recommendations and plan of action within next 60 days, a source reminded that the chief minister had also constituted a committee led by local government minister Zeeshan Rafique in April this year to propose amendments to the existing Punjab Local Government Act 2022 (PLGA-2022) within 15 days. However, the committee is yet to present its recommendations to the chief minister for final nod by the provincial cabinet and pave the way for the next local government elections.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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