Senators irked by Snag in Development Portfolio of Fata

 
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Only 13 percent of Rs24.5 billion Fata ADP utilized so far

ISLAMABAD, Dec 31 (TNS): Amid the excessive mention of Fata doing rounds in the media these days, regarding the much needed and delayed Fata Reforms, a recent meeting by the Senate Standing Committee on SAFRON revealed an alarming story regarding the current state of development budget of Fata.

The meeting was convened by the chairman Senator Hilal-ur-Rehman on complaints by the public and local contractors of Fata at the delayed and dampened development process going on in Fata this year.

Much to the alarm of the Senate body, Officials from Fata secretariat of whom Capt(Retd) Sikandar Qayyum , Additional Chief Secretary and the overall head of Fata briefed Was conspicuous by his absence at this senator Hidayatullah and Najam ul hassan walked out of the meeting stating that the non-seriousness of Mr Sikandar Qayyum was evident.

In the absence of ACS Fata, Secretary P&D briefed the forum that the total utilization of Funds up till now stands at a paltry 3052 million rupees (3 billion rupees) against releases of first quarter of 4800 million rupees (4.8 billion):  making the utilization at 64 percent against releases. When the Senators inquired that almost half the budgetary year has passed and the second quarter funds worth another 4.8 billion rupees are yet to be disbursed to the line departments for carrying out various development initiatives in Fata.

The Secretary cut a sorry figure by blaming the Federal Finance division for the delay at which the forum indicated the slow pace of utilization by Fata secretariat to be the main cause and not to blame the federal government for delayed releases. It transpired that it took the Fata secretariat 5 months to utilize a mere 3 billion rupees of the first quarter releases; which rang many alarm bells, especially on the eve of the final year of the current assemblies.

The secretary P&D briefed that as per initial development calendar PC-1s of the 499 New and un-approved schemes were to be submitted by the 1st week of September to Planning and development department Fata.

Further these development schemes were to be approved by fourth week of September and then within two weeks of approval of a scheme the tendering process was to be completed and contracts awarded for mobilization of contractors. However, on this count too the progress was abysmal and lack luster. Of the 499 new initiative schemes earmarked for approval in various sectors only 208 were approved by development forums (FDC, FDWP and ADSC) so far.

The slowest progress in approval was recorded for Education sector in which out of 98(85 b status and 13 R status) only 22 schemes had been approved so far; making the due for approval schemes of Education sector 76. Water supply was also a least priority in the Water scarce region of Fata as only 5 schemes of a total of 31 new Drinking Water Supply schemes stood approved by Fata secretariat so far. This was followed by Health ( 14 approved out 52 schemes) , irrigation (16 approved out of 38 schemes) and Communication sector ( 26 approved out 65 ).

In terms of Agencies the worst performing were SWA ( 8 approved out of 74 ) followed by Bajaur ( 6 schemes approved out of 22 ) and then Mohmand agency ( 10 approved out of 31 schemes).

The chairman indicated at the submission of incomplete data to the list of pending schemes owing to issues of site selection stuck up at the Agency and district levels. To which the secretary referred the forum toward the Additional Political Agents and heads of line departments who were present in the meeting, much to the shock of the Standing Committee members who noted that the Additional chief Secretary should take responsibility for all the tiers of FATA falling under him and not refer matters to subordinate officials while he is present. Since the ACS Capt (Retd) Sikandar Qayyum was absent today therefore a follow up meeting on the pending issues will be convened in the next two weeks.

In terms of percentage utilization against first quarter releases Health, drinking water supply (PHE), Social welfare and housing sectors stood at 45 %, 44 %, 41% and 53 % percentages respectively. This indicated the lack of focus on basic service delivery and livelihood sectors at Fata.

However the senators pointed out that had Fata secretariat secured the Second Quarter releases on time , which should have been secured by the mid-October, the utilization against releases would be hovering around 20 to 30 percent in all the 16 sectors of the Fata development portfolio. Senator Saleh Shah lamented that due to ineffective checks on officials in Finance department fata, C&W (Works department) and the line departments, the pace of fiscal expenditure is slow. They hinted that the real reason for slow utilization was bureaucratic red tape which left with the contractors and public with no choice but to grease the palms of officials sitting in Fata Secretariat, line departments and the Political Agent offices.

Most notable and unusual was the remarks of minister for State for SAFRON Mr. Ghalib Khan Wazir who lambasted the Fata Secretariat and the political administrations for their apathy toward the plight of the hapless people of Fata. He said that he will resign under protest if the reservations regarding transparency and pace of development works were not addressed . The forum also referred to two schemes worth 77 crore approved by Fata Secretariat and decided to examine the package based initiatives at the subsequent meeting.

The Chairman, Senator Hilal ur Rehman and other Senators reminded the Secretary P&D and officials from SAFRON that it was due to the joint efforts of the Fata parliamentarians and the Governor KP that the federal government had increased the Fata portfolio from 19 billion in 2016-17 to 24.5 billion rupees in this year. But it appeared that the officials in Fata had no interest in letting the dividends of these efforts by Public Representative’s trickle down to the destitute, displaced and despairing masses of Fata.