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Parliament asked to review low utilisation: Education budget

ATTOCK, Sept 23: A civil society organisation has asked parliamentary committees on education to take serious notice of massive underutilisation of development budget by the Education Division.

In a statement, the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) said in 2006-07, the Education Division utilised only Rs2,193 million out of the total Rs6,560 million allocations, meaning that only 33 per cent of the budget was utilised.

"This situation is highly unfortunate and completely unacceptable; and the standing committees of the Senate and the National Assembly have the responsibility to take up this issue on priority basis and in an effective manner," it said.

In a welcome move, the Senate standing committee on education had established a sub-committee to monitor the utilisation of the education budget. However, the sub-committee would need to exercise effective oversight and recommend timely measures in order to ensure efficient utilisation of education budget in 2007-08.

The CPDI noted that the first quarter of the financial year 2007-08 would come to an end on September 30; and suggested that the following week would be the right time for the Senate committee to seek a quarterly budget utilisation report from the Education Division.

Past record shows that the utilisation rate is generally very slow in the first quarter due to a range of inefficiencies on the part of the ministries of finance and education.

Last year, the Education Division had utilised only Rs106 million in the first quarter; while the total annual development budget was Rs6,560 million.

The CPDI urged the National Assembly standing committee on education to take up the matter, and play its role in addressing this critical problem.

It may be noted that the low utilisation of development budget at the disposal of Education Division is attributed to a variety of factors, including the late release of finances, delays in site selection and acquiring land, inter-departmental disputes, unavailability of technical staff, delayed consultant reports and late issuance of work orders.

It is a very disturbing fact that the Education Division has been unable to get these problems fixed over the past several years.

While taking up the issue of underutilisation, the CPDI said, the standing committees on education must ensure that their recommendations were focused, realistic and well-considered, and finalised after following a transparent and a participatory process. Dawn
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