The Punjab government has created six authorities and two foundations in addition existing departments, which is causing duplication of the functioning in the governance, while no other administrative wing has been abolished to ease burden on the public kitty and replication of working.
This has raised many questions about dishing out favours to those falling within the close political circles, and causing dent to the public exchequer since the multiplication of the non-development expenses. Now 18 authorities are part of the Punjab government, while most these are general administrative arms, being run in the presence of the existing departments. Besides this, steering committees have also been created as well, which are being headed by the PML-N parliamentarians.
Earlier, the same dispensation has constituted over fifty task forces, while the bulk of these were dissolved this year after these had functioned for over two years. This was done when the Lahore High Court was scheduled to hear a petition against the appointments of 50 coordinators and chairpersons of task forces since it was ‘advised’ that no law could justify their appointments. However, this was attributed to a sagacious step of government’s much- trumpeted austerity drive.
Moreover, the provincial dispensation has created six new authorities during its stint, while five of these have been instituted in the last two years. These have been protected under the law, as the Punjab Assembly has already passed the bills.
This has raised a huge question about the working of the departments since two options come to the minds of the governance experts, who aver that either these departments are not working properly, or these have lost the trust of the top men of the province. However, they are of the considered opinion that these authorities have resulted in the duplication of duties and functions, while the political appointees deem it their right to interfere in the working of the departments.
As far as the pays are concerned, the Management Professional scales are offered to these appointees, and by virtue of this, besides salaries, others facilities automatically attached to the post are dished out to them. The official sources have confided that minimum of Rs 20million annually are costing the kitty, which could have been saved since no improvement in the governance could be gauged. 76 persons have been working as coordinators (49), chairpersons of committees (17), and media consultants (10) in various departments and institutions. These appointed men are enjoying perks and privileges also if any one of them is said to be working ‘on honorary basis’. However, besides salaries ranging between Rs75,000 and 225,000 – depending upon the MP scale – they are also provided 150 to 200 litres of petrol, house rent, and telephone charges, and a full official paraphernalia, including manpower.
Spokesperson of the Punjab government Senator Pervez Rasheed, while negating dishing out of perks and privileges, asserted no one of the appointed were drawing salaries, and they were voluntarily working. He observed that there was no duplication of work and replication of responsibilities since the Foundations, authorities and committees were working in their own ambits. To him, every thing was in correct place, and functioning as per its permitted purview, while capable persons had been appointed to head the administrative arms.
The Babus view it from their own perspective, and deem that besides their functioning, these authorities were meant to benefitting a few chosen political cronies belonging to the PML-N coterie since pays, privileges, and perks are attached to these posts. “Also separate buildings have been procured on rent for the offices, while despite its once self-imposed ban on purchase of new vehicles, cars have been purchased. Do these not fall under wasteful expenditures?” questioned anonymity-seeking officer of the Planning and Development Board, who is waiting for a writ-petition in the court of law to mend a few things, which had not been passed by the provincial assembly.
The Punjab Food Authority Act and the Lahore Ring Road Authority Act were institutionalised this year. The first one is virtually sitting over the heads of all the departments, especially the Food Department. The legislation grants it all the powers to undo departments’ working and orders, while initiating new ventures on its own. The Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority Act, created in 2009 and updated in January last year, is also encroaching the pitch of the Food Department, and its sub-heads.
To officers, the LRR Authority seems to a never-ending idea, while the Communication and Works Department, in collaboration of the P&D Department, is carrying out huge projects already.
Another much-publicised but equally criticised is the Sasti Roti Authority Act, which is being headed by MNA Hanif Abbasi, and as per sources, he has paid official visits on a chopper to various districts of the province for the provision of the roti.
As part of its mantra, the Punjab government attaches huge import to the education and health sectors, and three departments – Higher and Schools education with a large of wings attached and the Health department – are taking care of the administrative matters. Nevertheless, the dispensation went ahead with institutionalising the Punjab Daanish Schools and Centers of Excellence Authority Act – taken care of by a trio of retired officers – and the Punjab Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority Act, when the Punjab Vocational Training Council was already working.
Secondly, in the same way the Health Foundation and the Punjab Education Foundation have been created, while the education and health departments had the maximum number of task forces as well.
The PEF is an autonomous statutory body established under an act of the provincial assembly with its head office at Lahore, and its aim to encourage and promote education in the private sector operating on non-commercial/non-profit basis. Besides this, it is for the promotion of education, especially encouraging and supporting the efforts of the private sector in providing education.
In addition to this, the Punjab Examination Commission is also working as an autonomous body set up to administer assessment-only examinations for grade 5 and grade 8. The Commission is only focused on assessing learning outcomes of these students. These assessments enable students to score better in their promotion examinations conducted by their own schools and respective boards of studies.
Moreover, the provincial government has set up a series of Steering Committees being headed by parliamentarians to carry out a review of the criteria for accepting schemes, provisions of logistic and administrative support and of funds.
MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is very busy with the development of the hill resort of Murree since he is Chairman Steering Committee on development projects of Murree. Another MNA Bilal Yasin Chairman Price Control Committee is active for controlling prices of edibles during Ramzan.