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Election Commission of Pakistan. — File photo
Election Commission of Pakistan. — File photo

PESHAWAR, April 21: The official ban on re-appropriation of development funds cast shadow over the prospects of timely implementation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Annual Development Programme, according to official sources.

The pace of several development activities, said an official, was likely to slowdown in the remaining part of the ongoing fiscal because of the ban.

The Election Commission of Pakistan’s ban on re-appropriation of development funds has entered into its fourth month in a row, leaving the officials concerned in a fix.

“The government’s hands are tied because of the ban,” said a senior government functionary.

ECP banned re-appropriation of funds and fresh appointments in all government departments and official agencies under its instructions on January 22, 2013

Later, in February this year ECP issued a new set of instructions vis-à-vis re-appropriation of development funds, ascertaining central role in controlling the authority to manage development funds.

As per the new instructions, ECP ordered that “the development projects already in progress may continue without interruption where no diversion of funds is required; requests from foreign donors to divert funs from one project to another will be considered by ECP on case to case basis, diversion of funds in respect of projects of strategic importance will also be considered by ECP on case to case basis, and no funds will be diverted from an ongoing project to a new existing development project in any constituency.”

The continuation of the ban on diversion of funds from one ongoing project to another would impact negatively the Annual Development Programme in the fourth quarter of the fiscal when management of funds, said an official, had traditionally been done out of necessity than anything else on the part of the official development agencies.

According to official sources, usually, re-appropriation from slow moving schemes to the projects in need of funds picks up momentum in the ninth and tenth month (March and April) of every fiscal to utilise maximum amount of the available development funds.

The provincial departments put a dismal show as they jointly utilised only about 30 per cent of the Rs97 billion annual development funds in the July-December period of the current financial year.

“We have no idea, no one knows what would happen if ECP’s instructions stay any longer,” said a senior official.

Officials of the provincial finance and planning and development departments separately told Dawn that the impact of the limitations imposed on funds’ management would be known after the planning department evaluated the utilisation of funds in the third quarter of the current fiscal.

The department, according to sources, will soon hold a series of review meetings during which the provincial government’s line departments would present their performance vis-à-vis implementation of their development programmes, availability of funds and the funds utilisation position till March 31, 2013.

“Traditionally, diversion of funds from the slow moving schemes to those where more funds are needed is done after the provincial government reviews the overall ADP performance in April,” said a finance manager.

The provincial cabinet, said an official, would be made a presentation on ADP’s performance once planning and development department finalised the evaluation report.

A planning department official, however, said that the diversion of funds, to the projects in need of money, was taking place at the bare minimum level on case to case basis in adherence to ECP’s instructions.

“Re-appropriation of funds in the education and health sectors is being done, but at a very limited scale,” he said. Senior officials said that the province was doomed to end up with a considerable amount of unspent development funds at the end of the financial year if the ban stayed any longer.

However, according to official sources, several of the mega development programmes should not experience scarcity of funds this year. The last elected government , said the sources, released 50 per cent of the development funds to all the projects at the beginning of the 2012-13 financial year, setting momentum for a fast implementation of development works of its interest in the last year of its five year constitutional term in the office.

“There is no shortage of development funds, but room for an intelligent management of funds is always there. There would be several projects that won’t be able to utilise funds and it is here where funds’ management plays an important role to achieve higher utilisation of funds by the end of the fiscal,” said an official.