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Edu division spent only 33pc of PSDP allocation in 2006-07

ISLAMABAD, Sept 15: Out of RS 6560 millions allocated for development projects in the Financial Year 2006-07, the Education Division spent only RS. 2193/- millions by the end of June 2007. This means that the Division could spend only 33% of the original total allocation, which indicates that there continue to exist serious problems in terms of ensuring timely release and utilization of education budget.

It is to be noted that the total utilization by the end of 3rd quarter (i. e. end of March 2007) was only RS 1281 millions, which constituted just 20% of the original budgetary allocation. Hence, the Education Division that spent only 20% of the total allocation in the first three quarters was able to spend another 13% in the last quarter. The low utilization of development budget at the disposal of Education Division is attributed to a variety of factors including the late releases by the Ministry of Finance, delays in site selection and acquiring land, inter-departmental disputes, non-availability of technical staff, failures in appointing full-time project directors, delayed consultant reports, late issuance of work orders and late submission of reports or requests for release of funds by the related implementing organizations.

It is a very disturbing fact that the Education Division has been unable to get these problems fixed over the past several years. In view of slow implementation of development projects in 2006-07, the government had substantially reduced the original budgetary allocation of RS 6560 millions to RS. 4418 millions by the end of the financial year in June 2007. Out of the original allocation, RS 1314 millions were transferred to the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), RS 828 millions were surrendered, and RS 483 millions simply lapsed. In this backdrop, the total amount released to the Education Division during 2006-07 was RS 3935 millions; out of which only RS 2193 millions could be utilized. Hence, the rate of utilization, even in relation to the released funds only, was very low i. e. only 56%. It must be noted that utilization of allocated funds is often extremely low during the 1st and 2nd quarters. It is evident from the fact that, by the end of 1st quarter last year, only RS 106 millions had been utilized by the Education Division, while only 596 millions had been released by the end of September 2006.

The Education Division must improve its performance; and inform the stakeholders after each quarter about the progress on development projects. It must also consider monthly briefings for the media in order to explain the problems being faced and achievements being made. Another worrying fact is that the PSDP for the year 2006-07 included allocations for 17 cadet colleges, which are planned to be completed over a period of several years with a total cost of about RS 3600 millions. However, in 2006-07, about RS 766 millions were allocated for work on these colleges; out of which an amount of RS. 492 was utilized during the year. Hence, about 22% of the total funds utilized were spent on cadet colleges that are under construction. Considering that the cadet colleges cater to the needs of only a certain middle class segment of the society, it is a matter of serious concern that the Education Division puts such a high priority on cadet colleges. There is an urgent need to reconsider this policy in order to more efficiently use the budgetary allocations for achieving the objective of education for all.

Some of the relatively bigger projects that witnessed very slow progress during the year included (a) Madrassa Reforms Project out of the original allocation of RS 500 millions for the year, only RS 102 millions could be spent; and (2) Punjab Schools Library Project under German Debt Swap 1 out of the total allocation of RS 331 millions for the year, only RS 26 millions could be utilized. It is demanded that the Education Division must take immediate steps to improve its monitoring system and fix problems that result in extremely low utilization of funds. It also needs to reassess its priorities and ensure that budgetary allocations are efficiently utilized for promoting education for all. Most importantly, the Division must proactively share all the related information about the development projects as well as utilization of PSDP after each quarterly review. Maximum transparency in this context can help in better monitoring, greater accountability, timely rectification of related problems and improved performance of the Education Division. It would also improve public trust and confidence in the Division, which is currently lacking for a variety of reasons. Frontier Post

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