Punjab govt’s austerity measures – No red tape for Civil Secretariat


Millions of rupees are being spent on the decor and repair of the Punjab Civil Secretariat when the government is tripping over itself trying to milk the provincial finances dry for the rehabilitation of flood victims, secretariat sources told Pakistan Today.
To utilize the maximum resources on the flood-affected districts of Punjab, the provincial annual development budget has been slashed by 30 percent while Rs 2.9 billion has been cut recently from the non-development funds, also shelving major schemes like ‘Sasti Roti’.
Pay packages of employees working on various projects have been cut, as have task force numbers. All teaching hospitals have been barred from not only buying new equipment but also from getting existing equipment repaired. Even free newspapers have been stopped across city hospitals and in the Civil Secretariat as part of the austerity drive.
However, secretariat sources told Pakistan Today that renovation and repair projects to the tune of Rs 210 million were in progress at the Civil Secretariat. Rs 27 million has been earmarked for raising the boundary wall of the Secretariat, Rs 36 million to renovate the mosque, Rs 12 million to renovate the Local Government Department and repairing the front of the Home Department, while Rs 40 million for passages, walkways and the underground wiring.
Rs 75 million was being spent on the renovation of the chief secretary’s (CS) block and Rs 20 million on the additional chief secretary’s block. Sources said that renovation of the mosque and the Local Government Department alone had been completed, while the rest of the construction was in progress and “not a single scheme is pending”.
Sources said that the Punjab government was scrimping on one hand while millions were being spent on the ongoing schemes in the secretariat on the other. The government had directed all departments to follow austerity measures and not to ask for supplementary budgets but more than Rs 70 million was being spent on the renovation of the CS block.
“If the surgical tower at Mayo Hospital can be shelved for lack of funds, there is no reason to spend millions on the decoration of an office no matter how senior the person in question may be. Vital sectors such as health and education have to bear the blow, but the secretariat is immune to it, it seems,” sources added.
Haseeb Ather, who has additional charge as information secretary, said he was too burdened with work due to the additional charge and wanted some time to be able to comment on the issue after consulting with ‘officials concerned’. However, PSO to the CS Dr Wasif Khurshid said all ongoing schemes were supposed to be completed by June this year but could not because of lack of funds, so the projects were being completed now.
“The Welfare Wing deals with the renovation and repair within the secretariat,” he added. Talking to Pakistan Today, Services and General Administration (S&GAD) Additional Secretary (Welfare Wing) Ahmed Aziz Tarar said the ongoing schemes have not been shelved because costs will increase next year, while contractors will keep asking for bills.