PESHAWAR, Aug 2: An estimated amount of Rs3.5 billion, meant for development activities in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, remained unutilised in the last financial year owing to procedural flaws and official incapacities, according to official sources.

The Fata Secretariat missed the Rs10 billion development expenditure target for the last financial year with a wide margin as, according to official sources, project executing agencies and line departments failed to utilise 100 per cent of the funds provided for Fata’s uplift in the financial year 2011-12.

“Fata Annual Development Programme doesn’t appear to be on the priority list of the federal government,” said a Peshawar-based official, adding that Fata Secretariat was equally responsible for the failure to ensure an efficient and speedy utilisation of development funds.

Fata Secretariat, according to officials, had pitched the total size of Fata ADP at Rs15 billion for the financial year 2011-12. Later, the secretariat had to slash the ADP size down to Rs10 billion under instructions from the federal government.

The Planning Division, Islamabad, had asked Fata authorities that federal government could not finance the Rs15 billion programme because it had allocated Rs10 billion for Fata development.

However, the development expenditure at the end of the financial year ended up at a level far less than the revised size of Fata ADP, undermining the government’s plan of Fata’s integration into mainstream through economic development.The non-utilisation of the funds negatively impacted several of the projects pertaining to education, health, public health engineering, power, communications, regional development, rural development and technical education, according to sources.

Well-placed official sources attributed the failure largely to the federal government’s fund release policy, official incapacities to utilise the released funds within the stipulated time, insecurity in Fata and weather vagaries in certain parts of Fata.

According to an official source, the federal government released a major chuck of development funds a few days prior to the close of financial year that could not be utilised.

“How can you spend such a big amount (around Rs1 billion) in time if you receive the amount a few days before June 30 (the last date of the financial year),” said the official, adding that it took a lot of efforts and calculations to distribute funds among Fata agencies and different economic sectors.

Though the Planning Division provided a total of Rs10 billion for ADP’s implementation, the disbursement of funds from Islamabad to Fata Secretariat remained so erratic and in piecemeal, throughout the fiscal, that timely utilisation of the funds by 100 per cent was not possible, said the official.

“The unutilised development funding was either surrendered or lapsed at the close of the fiscal,” he said, adding timely releases of funds by federal government could facilitate development activities’ implementation on fast track.

While Fata’s development programme for the last financial year was ready by the end of July 2011, one month into the new financial year, the federal government started releases in September 2011, leaving the project executing agencies without development funds for the first three months of the fiscal.

“The Planning Division released an amount of Rs600 million in September last year at the end of the first quarter of the financial year, leaving Fata Secretariat in no position to start execution of major capital intensive development projects in the start of the financial year,” said the official.

He said that that the amount of Rs600 million was distributed among a variety of development projects on the basis of a formula devised for distributing funds on proportionate basis among seven Fata agencies and six Frontier Regions.

At the end, all the agencies received a paltry amount of the money that was thinned out when distributed among the tribal territories and special programmes. In some cases, projects got only few thousands of rupees in the first quarter of the financial year.

“How can you ensure 100 per cent utilisation of the funds by the end of the financial year when you don’t have money to work in the first three months of the same fiscal,” asked the official.

The delayed disbursement, he said, had hit the far flung areas of Fata the most. In several Fata areas projects could be implemented only in summer or during spring every year.The non-disbursement of money in July-to-September period, said the official, brought the execution of development projects to a complete halt in the snowbound pockets of Fata.