CM Khattak wants money for metro bus released

PESHAWAR: With the general elections merely months away, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister has sought the quick release of funds for the metro bus project being built in Peshawar while prioritising road projects in the province, even as overall government spending slowed.

A meeting was held in the cabinet room of the civil secretariat in Peshawar on Wednesday which reviewed the progress made on projects listed under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the fiscal year 2017-18 — funds allocated, released and actual percentage of money utilised by 34 sectors of the government.

Chaired by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, the provincial finance department said that they had earmarked Rs208 billion for the ADP 2017-18. Of this, around Rs82 billion was to be provided as assistance by foreign entities — including governments, financial institutions and non-governmental organisations — for a host of projects. The government was supposed to provide Rs126 billion as the local component.

Of the local component, officials said, the government had released around half of the money, or Rs61.4 billion, in the first six months of the fiscal year.

However, departments could only spend Rs43.8 billion, or around 34.8 per cent of the ADP.

This, officials noted, was down from last year when the departments had spent 36 per cent of their funds in the first six months of the fiscal year.

However, Khattak was a little perturbed with the pace of work on the metro bus project in the provincial capital who stressed on releasing funds for the mega project.

“The project needs around Rs8 billion and the government has released Rs752 million for it so far,” said an official of the K-P government who was privy to Wednesday’s developments.

The official added that the chief minister directed the K-P finance department to make arrangements for paying taxes of the metro bus project and to release funds which the K-P government was due to provide.

Asked about the mid-year performance review, the official said that roads, water, transport and information sectors had spent their funds well.

The officials explained the progress of district ADPs had slowed because the finance department released funds for them in the second quarter of the ongoing fiscal year.

The government had allocated Rs28 billion for the districts in the ADP and had so far only released Rs3.5 billion, or only 12.7 per cent of their annual allocation.

Delay in the release of funds also meant that the districts could use fewer funds.

By contrast, the government released Rs14.9 billion for construction of roads during the first six months of the fiscal year. Curiously, the government had only allocated Rs13.7 billion for the sector in the ADP, meaning the sector got Rs1.2 billion extra.

Furthermore, officials said that Rs12.9 billion of the money released has already been spent, or around 86.8 per cent of the total money released. Sources said that the extra money was released to complete the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government’s flagship project: the Swat Expressway Project.

Similarly, the government had released Rs828 million for the transport sector against the ADP allocation of Rs176 million. With the metro bus project also falling under the transport sector, it was unsurprising that they spent Rs805 billion in the past six months, or around 97.2 per cent of the total funds released.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2018.

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