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Billions spent without involving KP Assembly

July 12, 2012

PESHAWAR, July 11: Development work worth billions of rupees is being executed in the militancy-affected parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without placing their budgetary details before the provincial assembly, the relevant officials told Dawn on Wednesday.According to these officials, the accumulated cost of such development programmes comes to around $500 million.

In local currency, the total cost is estimated to be around Rs45 billion.

Senior government functionaries said the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority’s development portfolio did not come under the provincial assembly’s purview as the legislature had never been provided with details of the development activities being carried out by the Authority.

“The federal government has granted a waiver to Parssa with a view to ensure speedy execution of reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in the militancy affected areas of the province,” Adnan Khan, spokesman for Parssa, told Dawn.

The Parssa’s development portfolio currently involves 10 projects meant to rehabilitate infrastructure, housing, and economic development sector in the militancy-affected Malakand division. Foreign grants extended by multiple donors have been channelised through the Economic Affairs Division, Islamabad.

However, the provincial assembly has no role as it is not provided with details of development funds being spent by Parssa, according to official sources.

“It can never happen (expenditure without the assembly’s approval),” Saqibullah Chamkani, Awami National Party’s member of the provincial assembly, said when contacted. He said all funding and expenditure details were certainly placed before the legislature.

“Directly or indirectly, all budgetary accounts are tabled before the provincial assembly along the provincial government’s annual budget,” said Mr. Chamkani, a member of the Public Accounts Committee of the Provincial Assembly.

“At times, one line budgetary allocations are made whenever the funds relate to public sector entities with greater autonomy,” said Mr. Chamkani.

Some development work, he added, were executed as ‘non-ADP’ (the schemes that are not reflected in the provincial annual development programme) schemes, but even their details were placed before the provincial legislature when the government presented its supplementary budget at the end of every financial year.

However, senior government functionaries said neither Parssa’s funding and expenditure details were placed before the assembly nor the legislature had ever discussed the Authority’s development portfolio.

As a result, none of the Authority’s development projects makes part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s annual development programme ever since the Authority came into being in 2009-10. The provincial government plans to spend Rs97.4 billion under its ADP for the current financial year.

“The Planning and Development Department, despite being the lead development agency of the province, has no role when it comes to Parssa’s development work,” said a development planner. Officials said that the department tried to bring PARSSA’s portfolio under the provincial ADP’s ambit, but the move was resisted.

“Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti prevailed and directed that PARSSA’s portfolio be kept out of the regular ADP,” said a knowledgeable official source.

PARSSA is presently carrying out the US $ 82 million Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reconstruction and recovery program; supervising distributing of $65 million housing compensation grants; carrying out $ 10 million economic growth initiative.

Similarly, it executed $ 10 million agri-rehabilitation and agri-based livelihood recovery project; $25 million sustainable development through peace building, governance and economic recovery in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Besides, there are some other projects a couple of which will reach their completion dates in 2014-15 and one in 2018, according to sources.

The Parssa’s spokesman said though the Authority’s had been exempted from pursuing the normal official procedure - meant for seeking approval for the development plans - its projects were closely monitored, aiming to ensure transparency.“Our projects are subjected to multiple audits as apart from internal audit done by Parssa, external audits are also done in line with the international donor agencies’ requirements,” said Mr Khan.

He said the waiver had been given to make sure that the Parssa’s development work was executed on fast track basis, overcoming ‘people’s grievances’ in the militancy affected areas where, according to him, the government wanted to rehabilitate and reconstruct damaged infrastructure on early basis.

The Authority’s affairs are run in line with decisions by its ‘Provincial Steering Committee’ that is headed by the provincial chief secretary.

Similarly, its accounts and budgetary affairs are governed in accordance with an ‘Operational Manual’ that has been evolved by incorporating different rules applied in budgeting, procurement, accounting and auditing.

The Authority has been bestowed with the power to approve its budget and re-appropriate funds from one account to another within the approved budget. In the case of other departments of the provincial government, P & D carries a dominant role in re-appropriation of funds and deciding their development work.

In the Parssa case, its projects’ approval was exempted from Central Working Development Party, avoiding lengthy official procures.

However, several officials believe that the desire to run the projects on fast should not have compromised the provincial assembly’s authority.

The decision to keep the provincial assembly out of the loop has not only undermined its constitutional role; it has given birth to duplication of work, loose monitoring, and wastage of public money, said a development planner.

“In more than one instances, it has been found that a development activity was charged to the provincial government’s ADP side by side to the Parssa’s development portfolio,” said an official.