Grant of utility allowance to some officers ignites controversy


–Secretary Finance Abdullah Khan Sumbul government wants to encourage officers

LAHORE: A recent notification of grant of utility allowance to the officers (BS-17 to BS-19) and four members (inquiries) of Services & General Administration Department (S&GAD) posted in Punjab Civil Secretariat created distress among the government servants working in departments outside S&GAD or in the autonomous bodies of the provincial government as no utility allowance has been increased for them, Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.

The notification issued by the Secretary Finance Abdullah Khan Sumbul on May 7 stated, “Governor of Punjab has been pleased to grant Utility Allowance w.e.f. 01.01.2019 in favour of the officers of BS-17 to BS-19 as well as four members (inquiries), S&GAD posted in the Punjab Civil Secretariat and drawing their salaries from the Pay Rolls of their Administrative Department.”

According to the notification, the utility allowance granted to BS-17 officers per month is Rs15,000 whereas, for BS-18, the utility allowance granted is Rs20,000 while BS-19 officers would get Rs25,000 per month. Moreover, as per the notification, four members (inquiries) S&GAD have been granted a utility allowance of Rs30,000 per month.

The notification states, “The Utility Allowance will be paid on a monthly basis along with salary. Secretaries (BS-17) and Superintendents (BS-1 7) shall be entitled to the utility allowance as per this Department’s letter No. FD.SR-l/9-1412002(P) dated 31.01.2017.”

The notification further states, “The officers/officials of Punjab Civil Secretariat Departments on deputation or posted by transfer outside the Secretariat including Attached Departments, field formations and Autonomous Bodies will not be entitled to this allowance. Secretariat employees during extraordinary leave, study leave, leave on full or half pay for 120 days or more, training abroad or under suspension will not be entitled to this allowance. It shall not be treated as part of emoluments for the purpose of calculation of pension/commutation and recovery of house rent.”

According to reliable sources, this notification, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, has raised questions among the other government officers who are not working in S&GAD while they are of the opinion that why the S&GAD staff has always been in the limelight and thought of working more than the other government officers.

A government employee of BS-16 in S&GAD told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity that it was a biased notification and the decision makers had not thought of the lower grade staff. “We also need utility allowances because we make the officers run their assigned tasks. The lower staff is the backbone of S&GAD and it is us who work 24/7 when the higher-ups dictate tasks to us on telephones. The government should also think of us while issuing such notifications.”

Another government employee said, “It is a clear disparity among the government servants and we should come out to protest against this decision. Why the decision makers only think of their staff working in S&GAD. I think government officers working in authorities and autonomous bodies are working harder because they do not have all the facilities that the S&GAD staff gets. We work day and night without noticing the weather conditions and in the end, there is no special allowance for us.”

Another employee of an autonomous body said, “Are we not working day and night to make the system run? This is discrimination among government employees. We have worked hard to achieve goals and all tasks which are assigned to us. Day, night or weather does not affect us, our social life is disturbed but we keep on giving our best to the government. If this is the response in return of our work and efforts then I think talented people would run away from the government jobs.”

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Secretary Finance Abdullah Khan Sumbul said, “There should not be any comparison made among the government employees. We have taken this step to encourage the Secretariat staff and to retain the best officers by giving them incentives. I am sure that if we compare the S&GAD salaries with other government bodies they are still underpaid. This has been done for the benefit of the public sector because we are badly paid if we compare ourselves with other developing counties. When the employees are underpaid they run for deputations and thus to retain the talent such steps are important. This is a positive step and one way to encourage talent and retain them. I think the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and police are highly paid than these officials and have a lot more benefits. I think this is the best way to hold back the good people in the government.”