PESHAWAR, Jan 23: There are fears that foreign funds could lapse due to slow work by line departments on rehabilitation activities in Malakand division.

Representatives of foreign donors told Dawn after a meeting with the provincial government on January 18 that inefficiency and lack of institutional capacity on part of line departments were frustrating their agencies.

“They (the government) have a lot of money. What they need is to increase their efficiency,” European Union’s development advisor Imran Ashraf said, adding that “his organisation is looking into possibilities to provide funds for the rehabilitation of Malakand division.”

The communication and works department forms major concern for some donor organisations, especially the United States Agency for International Development, according to a provincial government official.

The department’s failure to complete the infrastructure projects on time may cost the people of Malakand division dearly as, according to the official, not many donor agencies liked to extend their project timelines more than twice in case of delays.

“They (departments) do have capacity issues,” said the representative of an international development agency involved in Malakand division, adding that “you have started the work (development projects) that was one thing, now there is an increasing need for completing the projects on time.”

The provincial government’s development portfolio concerning Malakand division heavily relies on international aid agencies and foreign donors. Of the seven sectoral development programmes under execution in Malakand, six have been funded by international development agencies like USAID, GIZ and UNDP, and donor countries such as Italy, Japan and Switzerland.

Four of the sectoral programmes involve a total investment of $138 million, and two others will be completed with a total of 7.5 million Euros investment, according to a provincial government document.

However, the 100 per cent use of the promised funds on part of the government departments seemed to be a distant possibility at this point of time as some programmes, said the official, were encountering delays due to slow implementation.

The $66 million USAID funded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Reconstruction Program involves the construction of 118 schools and 19 health facilities among a host of other development activities planned under it as part of the rehabilitation of Malakand division.As per the programme’s timeline, 20 of the 118 under construction schools were planned to complete by December 31, 2011, two by January 31, 2012 and one more by the end of next February.

However, the schools’ construction, said an informed official, was plagued by slow execution on part of private contractors hired by the Communication and Works department.

“The construction of 20 schools slated to complete in December 2011 would even miss the revised completion date of January 31, 2012,” said the official.

An international donor agency’s representative told Dawn that the delay might cause complications.

“If contractors cannot complete 50 per cent of the assigned work, or even 30 per cent work, or even 10 per cent work within the scheduled timeframe, then there are strong chances that their people sitting in Washington might ask ‘what is happening?’,” the foreign representative said about the slow pace of work at some USAID-funded construction of schools in Malakand.

A provincial government official said several of the private contractors involved in the construction of schools had run into difficulty. In many instances, the contractors had been complaining of incurring financial losses due to the high construction standards laid down by the contract awarding agency.

Other than the USAID-funded programme, the Italian government sponsored ‘Early Recovery of Agriculture and Livelihood Program’ has also been suffering due to delays, say officials.

The timely completion of foreign-funded programmes was regarded as a ‘challenge’ by outgoing director general the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority Shakeel Qadir Khan in his presentation at the January 18 meetings with representatives of foreign donors at Islamabad.

He had mentioned ‘delivery according to timelines’ as a way forward to maintain foreign donors’ confidence.

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