By Anwer Sumra
The Punjab government needs to look no further than its doorstep to make its austerity drive more credible.
Bureaucrats believe the government needs to plug the drain on resources
According to a senior official of the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD), it can begin by abolishing the four offshoots of the S&GAD that have become a mere financial burden on the treasury.
The financial burden placed on the government treasury, in excess of millions of rupees, by four offshoots of the S&GAD has become hard to justify alongside discourse demanding unaccustomed austerity.
Several senior officials concurred that the four branches were largely redundant and had not significantly contributed to governance for the past several months.
The Punjab government has allocated nearly Rs65 million in the 2010-2011 budget for the four subdivisions, namely, the Interprovincial Coordination wing, the Public Policy and Change Management unit, the Former Servicemen Re-employment Board and the Provincial Information and Analysis unit.
Requesting anonymity, a senior officer stated that the S&GAD was currently engaged in discussions to justify and defend the divisions. “In my opinion”, he stated, “the Punjab government needs to abolish the branches with immediate effect in order to demonstrate its commitment to good governance. The employees consequently made redundant can easily be accommodated to cover the shortfall in other departments.”
The Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) subsection, reporting to the chief minister, was established in 2007 to help improve coordination between the provincial and the federal governments. Members of the wing have only met once since the current chief minister was administered oath. The overheads of running the department, salary payments and maintenance expenses exceed Rs16.281 million.
The IPC employs 29 officials. Its secretary, a grade-20 officer, Mussawar Abbas Naqvi admitted, “Suspending operations and shutting down the IPC would be a prudent step in the right direction.”
The Public Policy and Change Management Unit was created in 2006 to proactively facilitate civil services reform with input from in-house specialists. Off the record, a senior official told The Express Tribune, “It was pulled out of thin air to accommodate Aminullah Chaudhary, a retired bureaucrat.”
The department predictably failed to have an impact and was quickly forgotten but has continued to receive fiscal allocations (Rs13.692 and Rs14.653 million respectively in 2009 and 2010). Twenty employees, including six officers remain on its payroll.
The Provincial Information and Analysis Unit (PIAU) formed in the Implementation and Coordination Wing of the S&GAD, under the direct supervision of the chief secretary, was set up in 2009.
Intended to serve as a watchdog and improve departmental efficiency, the branch hired a director (BS-20 officer) and two additional directors (BS-19 each), who collectively withdraw Rs500,000 every month in addition to basic pay. The wing is dominated by District Management Group officers and has been getting Rs25 million from the provincial government.
In much the same vein, the CM’s Secretariat performs the duties prescribed for the Former Servicemen Re-employment Board. The wing was last active during the military regime of Pervaiz Musharraf and offered employment to retired servicemen. The idle unit extracts Rs10 million a year in budget allocations on average.