PEF funds transfer delay leaves stakeholders apprehensive


The Punjab Education Foundation (PEF)’s delay in the routine transfer of funds to thousands of partner schools has raised many eyebrows with the stakeholders doubting the province’s financial position, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Mostly run on foreign donations, the PEF supports around 1.8 million children enrolled in 3,000 schools across Punjab. The amount to be transferred to the schools varies according to the number of students enrolled in each partner school. The entire program, involving the Punjab government, is a part of wider international effort which aims to achieve the goal of educating children. Only those schools are selected which have no other schools within a certain area.
An insider revealed that as per routine the PEF has a three-month financial backup and hence all funds are transferred in advance at the start of the month. However, due to the program’s expansion and several fiscal restraints, the financial cover was almost finished and there were modest funds left at the end of the previous financial year.
The PEF circulated a SMS reading, “The monthly payments for the first quarter may not reach on time due to late release of the budget this year. PEF is making every effort to have payments released at the earliest. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.”
The situation got worse before Eid when the schools started contacting for funds, forcing the PEF to release funds amounting to around one-fourth of the total amount. The stakeholders are worried about the unprecedented delay, with some even alleging that the foreign funds are not in ‘safe hands’.
However, the Finance Department’s officers concerned revealed that the complete amount had been released to the PEF in the first-quarter. Sources in department further revealed that 70 million pounds per annum was the grant coming from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), adding that this made up to around 90 percent of the funds required by the PEF. Insiders further revealed that Rs 7.5billion has been allocated for the PEF this year and the first quarterly release of Rs 1,875million had already been provided to the PEF.
“The department releases the funds to PEF, which has its own board and funds transfers to schools is their internal matter,” a senior official said.
PEF officials dealing with finance said that there were three steps before the funds actually reached the PEF accounts. “The finance department, the education department and the AG office all take time and per routine it takes around 45 days for the funds to reach my account. The finance and education departments have given approval and it is currently lying in the AG’s office. As soon as it is in my account, the funds are transferred to schools,” he said, adding that it was incorrect to use the term ‘delay’ to describe the current situation as it had only been a change in the routine. To a question he said that the PEF initially had a three-month financial backup which had been spent because of the program’s expansion.