PESHAWAR: Discrepancy of over Rs43 billion in development funds allocated by the federal and provincial governments for new and ongoing projects in the merged tribal districts echoed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday.
The house unanimously admitted an adjournment motion for detailed discussion regarding discrepancy in billion of rupees that has emerged in the records of the provincial government and Accountant General of Pakistan.
Pakistan Peoples Party member Nighat Yasmin Orakzai and independent member Mir Kalam Khan from North Waziristan tribal district raised the issue through an identical adjournment motion. It cropped up in a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on State and Frontier Regions (Safron) lately.
The motion said the issue had come under discussion in the Senate’s committee and it was noted that records for Rs43 billion were missing from the budget of the tribal districts during the financial years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Opposition member complains of low uplift spending in Kurram
“It shows that former Fata was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in order to usurp its rights,” said the motion, which was admitted for discussion in the house.
The assembly secretariat will fix date for a detailed discussion on the house.
Senator Hilalur Rehman, chairman of the Senate standing committee on Safron, told Dawn that the AGPR figures showed a huge discrepancy of over Rs43 billion between funds released by the federal finance division and the KP government.
He said that there was a difference of Rs13 billion in 2019, Rs23 billion in 2020 and Rs8.3 billion in 2021.
“I suspect that this amount has been diverted for schemes in settled districts of the province,” he said.
Senator Rehman said federal releases for merged areas ended up in Account I of the provincial government along with others and that there was no system to keep track of it.
He said the province faced cash crisis and therefore, it must have spent that amount in settled districts.
“We’re asking the provincial government to designate a separate account for the merged districts, but it is reluctant to do so,” he said.
The lawmaker said the missing funds had been allocated for development schemes from two different heads – Accelerated Implementation Programme and Annual Development Programme for the merged districts.
He alleged that in some cases, the department received money from the finance department, which was later put into private bank accounts of officers and the markup was embezzled by the officials in connivance with bank officers.
Earlier during question hour, MPA Nighat Orakzai criticised the local government department over low spending on development of schemes in Kurram tribal district. She pointed out that Rs184.712 million was allocated for six schemes, including execution of rural work programme and municipal services, and commercial area development in the district in ADP for the financial year 2020-21.
The lawmaker said the department spent only Rs15 million. She said that people of Kurram had badly affected due to militancy and the government should have expedited work on development schemes in the area.
She alleged that officials instead of utilising development funds put the money in private accounts for receiving profit.
Labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai said the structure of local government didn’t exist in the merged tribal districts, including Kurram, and the department concerned was unable to utilise funds.
He said the government was expediting the process and proper utilisation of funds would be ensured in the merged districts.
A question regarding delay in solarisition of tubewells in Upper Dir district and Karak was also referred to the concerned standing committee.
Responding to a calling attention notice, minister for elementary and secondary education Shahram Tarakai said e-transfer policy in the education department had been introduced to follow merit and reduce hardships of teachers. He said the policy would be introduced at the district level, too.
On the request of the government, the assembly deferred discussion on the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas Levies Force (Amendment) Bill, 2021, during passage stage. An amendment moved by MMA MPA Inayatullah Khan in Clause 2 (11) of the bill puzzled minister Shaukat Yousafzai.
The amendment says, “the age of superannuation of all officers, members and personnel of the Force regulated under this Regulation shall be sixty (60) years.”
Initially, Yousafzai opposed the amendment. When the mover continued his arguments in favour of amendment, the minister remained confused.
He requested Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan, who was in the chair, to defer debate on the bill. The chair said the bill was deferred for one week only.