Senators decry unspent funds in less-developed areas

ISLAMABAD - A parliamentary panel yesterday protested the unspent money on uplift of less developed areas particularly in Balochistan and FATA as some Senators warned about mass exodus of people in Balochistan due to the depleting water table.
Members of Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas emerged to know that federal institutions have not utilized the funds allocated in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2015-16 for bringing the areas at par with developed areas.
For example, it was told that not a single penny has been spent so far out of the Rs1600 million allocated for construction of 100 small dams in Balochistan. The executing agency for the projects is Water and Power Division that triggered some Senators to dub the negligence as a ‘deliberate’ attempt to keep the restive province lag behind other provinces.
And for 20 other dams in the province, the ministry of water and power failed to construct a single dam or spend a penny on the ventures for which another Rs6000 million were allocated under the PSDP.
“This is the reason that the scarcity of water in Gwadar has reached a level that people have to pay Rs12,000 for a single water tanker. Water is brought from a distance of 80 kilometers away. Why there is no drinking water project for the coastal district? Senator Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini made the members speechless and dared them to check the cost of a water tanker directly from the people.
He warned that the people of Balochistan will migrate to other parts of the country because the water shortage has made lives of people miserable. “Ask Senators from Balochistan and they will acknowledge that the orchards in the province have become things of the past. Water is rapidly going down,” he added.
And Chairman of the committee Senator Usman Khan Kakar lambasted officials of the Finance Ministry and Planning Commission who were present in the meeting for not pursuing progress on the projects adding the federal institutions were the executing agencies and were responsible for the unspent funds.
The ministry officials including Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood shared the official documents with the committee that showed that only Rs187 billion were spent on projects in Balochistan out of the total Rs448 billion under PSDP 2015-16.
About the progress made on construction of Loralai University in Balochistan, the meeting was informed that only Rs314 million have been spent on the project. The total amount allocated for the institution is Rs1580 million.
“How will you utilize the remaining amount with only four months left for the closure of the fiscal year in June? Who is responsible?” asked Senator Kakar.
But the ministry officials pointed fingers at Higher Education Commission (HEC) and assured they will bind the commission to expedite work on the educational institution.
About the utilization of uplift funds in FATA, the meeting was told that out of the total Rs25 billion, only Rs1.5 billion have so far been spent on the projects in the restive tribal areas.
Similarly, the less developed areas in southern Punjab too failed to witness the complete use of Rs128 billion allocated for development projects. The committee was informed that Rs43 billion have so far been utilized in the less developed areas of Punjab.
Interestingly, there was no Senator from Punjab who could grill the relevant officials for explaining why the funds remained unutilized. Similarly, Senators from FATA too were absent from the meeting.
The backward districts in Khyber Pakhtukhwa too have not seen utilization of the money allocated by the federal government for improving the infrastructure projects. Out of the total Rs860 billion projects, only Rs51 billion were spent.
The figures shared with the committee members revealed that the less developed areas in Sindh including Thar district also failed to utilize the sanctioned money in the current year.
Out of Rs383 billion allocated for backward areas in Sindh, only Rs99 billion were spent in the province. Again there was no Senator from the PPP-ruled province who could seek reasons as to why the money went unspent.
Only three Senators showed up at the 14-member Senate committee. Senator Usman Kakar, the chairman, Senator Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini of BNP-Mengal and Senator Nisar Muhammad of PML-N from KP. Senator Khaleda Parveen later arrived but the meeting had already come to an end.

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