Task forces and Sasti Roti Scheme were certainly one of the most criticised subjects initiated by Punjab’s incumbent political dispensation, but were honoured equally and kept close to its chest by the latter, and now lately, this parallel system of administration has been put to rest.
Then the recent-floods proved to be a blessing in disguise for the govt since it took little time in doing away with the two titanics – bound to drag ‘others’ along – on the pretext that the saved-money from these two heads would be spent on the flood-hit people. Previously, the govt used to save its skin from scathing criticism asserting that the men working behind the task forces were doing so on honorary basis, which was certainly divorced from reality to some extent. However, the suspension of the task forces is yet to be notified, while quite a few chairmen and members are said to be still enjoying perks and privileges with salaries, and official vehicles yet to be returned, which would have surely saved the money for the flood-affectees.
Govt’s spokesperson, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed is already on record when he said CM Shahbaz Sharif had ordered for suspending the forces immediately after the floods. “Certainly, not all the members of the task forces were being paid any salary, but the CM, in order to save maximum money for the flood-affectees, has ordered suspension of the working of the forces,” he had added, while having little idea about how much money could have been saved from the step.
However, these task forces – disputed figures varying from 34 to 58 – were considered to multimillion rupees administrative tier, established at the cost of public money, were yet to yield ‘required results’, and to be of tangible consequences, as perceived by the antagonists of the move, while its quite a few admirers must have been considering it a brainy step of the political govt.
Sources confided that so far 58 Task Forces in total were created, while ‘the influential with political and social connections’ were appointed as chairmen and members, who had been given Management Position Scales by virtue of which they were drawing millions of rupees as salaries in addition to hefty perks of higher magnitude. These forces instead of acting as brains rather became arms of the administrative machinery because of the ambitious men behind forces. Deeming themselves above the officers and beyond the purview of any rules, these men, who had virtually failed in gaining any political ground in the past, were acting as bosses of departments, and trying to get things done as per their whims and wishes.
None of the forces are said to have submitted any report. And if it was done, nothing was made public. One of initial task forces on Administrative and Financial Efficiency, headed by ex-bureaucrat S. Faroogh Naveed with chartered accountant Wiqar A. Khan playing second fiddle, was yet submit any report.
Granting of MP Scales to the chairmen and members of the forces were also violation of rules since the Scales are of the federal ministry, while the provincial govt is yet to formally adopt them. On average, if only 55 TFs were considered to be functional, then as per conservative estimates Rs 23.375 million were being spent every month, while over Rs 380m had been spent so far since 2008.