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AJK depts at odds over creation of 822 posts

January 18, 2013

MUZAFFARABAD, Jan 17: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) finance department is at odds with the ministry of health over creation of 822 posts in the health sector for it believes that more than 60 per cent of them are superfluous.

In September last year, the finance department had agreed to accord concurrence to the creation of these posts at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed.

According to sources, the concurrence was granted under the intense pressure of the public office holders “after they had claimed that they would ensure availability of required funds.”

The creation was to take effect from January 1, 2013, “subject to the provision of funds from the federal government.”

However, when the official notification to this effect was sent to the finance department in November last year for vetting, it withheld its prior approval, citing worsening financial conditions.

The department was of the view that only 282 of the 822 posts were genuinely required whereas the rest were unnecessary and created on political grounds, the sources said.

The finance department, added the sources, had also informed the secretary health as well as the accountant general’s office regarding withholding of its concurrence to the creation of these posts.

“At a time when the state is burdened by huge fiscal deficit, creation of superfluous positions will serve nothing except aggravating our financial woes,” said a finance department official while pleading anonymity.

It may be mentioned that for long AJK had been facing a budget deficit of Rs5.2 billion which got doubled (Rs10.3 billion) over the last six months.

According to the sources, two factors had mainly contributed to the accumulation of such a huge deficit and they were unnecessary creation and upgradation of posts in semi-government and autonomous institutions and the drastic reduction in revenue receipts.

“There are a number of departments which are good for nothing but every month we have to allocate huge amount for payment of salaries to their worthless employees,” lamented the official.

The AJK has a huge administration comprising some 81,000 government servants whose salaries consume Rs26.5 billion per annum. Another Rs3.5 billion goes to the payment of pensions.

Expenditures on provision and wear and tear of transport, fuel and other perks and privileges are in addition to that.

Sources said in the first half of current financial year, the government had created around 2,200 posts, including the 822 in the health sector. Inductions against these posts would put an additional burden of at least Rs396 million per annum in the head of salaries alone.

The sources added that on December 20, the federal finance division had directed the AJK finance department not to create any post without its prior concurrence because ultimately it had to pick AJK’s budget deficit.

However, even after that some posts had been created clandestinely in back dates.

Regarding the slump in revenue receipts, the sources said around Rs1 billion shortfall was being recorded in the electricity sector, around Rs1.5 billion in income tax and around Rs500 million in local taxes.

The overdraft limit of AJK government is Rs3.5 billion. However, as of Thursday, the government had obtained Rs4.6 billion to meet its expenditures.

“It’s because of these financial woes, the finance department stops all kinds of payments in the first seven days of every month to ensure availability of funds for salaries,” sources said.

“Since October last year, even the routine payments and reimbursement claims of the departments are entertained by the AG office only after relaxation from the finance department,” the sources added.