As the flash floods inundate many parts of the country, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet on Saturday approved emergency funding of Rs5 billion for relief and rescue activities across the country.

Moreover, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif also issued instructions to review the possibility of rescheduling the loans obtained by the flood-affected communities from the Zarai Taraqyati Bank Limited (ZTBL).

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance, the ECC approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs5 billion for the NDMA for rescue, relief and compensation for death and injuries of affectees of the floods.

It is a technical supplementary grant, which will not have any additional burden on the budget, as the money is allocated out of the contingency fiscal pool approved in the budget.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail remotely chaired the ECC meeting, wherein he also appealed to the business community to donate money to the PM’s Flood Relief Fund.

The NDMA had presented the summary in the special meeting of ECC for allocation of funds for flood affectees on the directions of the premier.

The NDMA chairman requested that the block allocation of Rs5 billion may be made to the National Disaster Management Fund (NDMF) for relief and rescue activities in the flood-affected areas and also to compensate the dead and injured persons.

The amount will be allocated from the contingency provision of the Finance Division as the bloc provision to the NDMF. The finance minister also directed for transfer of funds immediately to help the affected population timely.

The ECC was also informed that the PM had directed the NDMA to reach out to the affected people, but the authority argued that it did not have enough fiscal space for granting “ex-gratia compensation to all of the affected people”.

The provincial governments will immediately provide details of the next of kin of the deceased people for payment of ex-gratia compensation contribution of the federal government.

Subsequently, the premier directed the Ministry of Finance to immediately provide the Rs5 billion grant to the NDMA. The money will be allocated as a bloc allocation for flood relief on an immediate basis. The spending of the amount will be done as per the accounting procedure of the NDMF approved by the Finance Division.

Prime Minister Shehbaz has also instructed the finance ministry to review the possibility of deferring and rescheduling the ZTBL loans for one year in the disaster-hit areas. The final decision will be taken by the Ministry of Finance in consultation with the ZTBL management.

Meanwhile, the NDMA, in coordination with the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, will ensure the provision of machinery and equipment for the clearance of submerged cultivable land expeditiously.

The government has also decided to invoke the emergency clause of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) for emergency procurements.

However, it is worth mentioning here that during the Covid-19 emergency procurements by the NDMA, serious irregularities had been reported by the department of the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP).

The government had made the AGP report public only after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put a condition to audit the Covid-19 expenditures and make the report public.

The NDMA’s Covid-19-related spending was Rs22.8 billion and the auditors raised a red flag on Rs4.8 billion or around 21 percent of the spending, according to the AGP report.

No government thus reported whether any action was taken against any NDMA official for committing the irregularities.