Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), under the command of Shahbaz Sharif, announced strict implementation and promotion of Good Governance in public affairs in Punjab to remove all impediments hindering public welfare and governance delivery.
As PML-N had come to power in Punjab it vowed Good Governance as, merit based transfers and postings, transparency in governance affairs, fair distribution/utilization of development funds, easy public access to government offices, austerity measures in public expenditures and redressal of grievances without delay. But unfortunately, with the passage of time, all initiatives taken by the government failed one by one and, the public faces the same stereotype of governance in all affairs.
According to documents obtained by Truth Tracker (TT) from the civil secretariat, from the very first day, the PML-N government violated its self-claimed good governance in transfers and postings when a junior officer in BS-18 was posted as Administrative Secretary and a BS-17 officer posted as District Coordination Officer (DCO). The policy to post juniors on senior posts yet continues despite opposition from concerned quarters. Therefore, many senior grade officers are finding themselves serving under junior command for the first time in hierarchy of Pakistan Administrative Service (formally known as District Management Group (DMG) officers.
The fair and transparent allocation/utilization of development funds was repeatedly questioned by southern Punjab’s legislators on the floor of the house inquiring why Lahore is the only focus for urban development. Orange Line Metro Trains project fortified their reservations and objections as government diverted funds earmarked for development schemes particularly for education and health of southern districts, says documents obtained by TT.
The provincial government adopted an Open Door policy and Khuli Kachahries (open courts) were introduced to resolve the grievances and issues of general public. It was being organized from the top (chief executive) of the province down to a grade 17 officers for listening general public for quick redressal of their grievances. This initiative met its fate all of sudden when the chief minister ceased holding of such courts on a pretext of security threat stated the document.
The government also promised that strict financial discipline would be ensured in all government expenditures. Contrary to the facts, it was evident that the amount of supplementary grant touched the figure of Rs. 150 billion during 2015-16 against the amount of Rs.42.9 billion of the corresponding years (2014-15), says White Paper a budget book released by Punjab government.
The rise in supplementary grant is criticised by experts for poor planning, weak financial discipline and bad governance in budget making and priority fixing. The audit report (2013-14) of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PIBT), available with Truth Tracker, shows an anomaly as an audit para of Rs.12.4 million referred to public accounts committee for settlement. The para maintained that the chief minister Punjab illegally used said amount on his tour to China from the board’s funds. This is enough to gauge the adoption of strict financial discipline and how public kitty is being used without fear of accountability and transparency.
The government also banned the purchase of new and imported vehicles from the current and development budgets and; curtailed official functions at hotels unless one was deemed necessary by the chief minister for state delegations. The refurbishment or interior decoration of offices, establishment of offices, purchase of furniture and fixtures, and procurement of machinery and equipment was also frozen, quoted the notification issued by finance department.
In the presence of a strict austerity policy to deal with public expenditures, the Punjab government approved import of Teakwood from Burma at the rate of Rs.14, 000 per square feet for interior designing of newly constructed Punjab Assembly session hall, says document obtained by TT. However, according to finance department Schedules of Rates, the rate of Teakwood was calculated at Rs.5200 per square feet if it was indispensable to purchase but the figure was not approved by the decision makers, the document maintained.
A committee headed by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah Khan approved the exorbitant rates to allow the contractor for import of Teakwood with the observation that economical work without compromising on quality for the interior designing, the documents reveals.
On the other hand, few days back, Zahra Bibi, 60, from Kasur died on the cold floor of Jinnah hospital as the hospital management failed to even provide a bed to her. Both the incidents: import of Teakwood at rate of Rs.14, 000 per square feet and death of an elderly lady without facility of bed speaks volumes of good governance being practiced in the province.
The non-availability of beds for healthcare to a common citizen, you may call it no governance, said Professor Munawar Sabir of Punjab University. In good governance, maximum benefits (social and economic) are for maximum population and the governance promoted by Punjab is a ridiculous one as it is restricted only for family and friends, Sabir added. Distribution of the cheques to the bereaved families after provincial tragedy cannot justify good governance in any shape, perhaps avoiding such negligence and deaths could be called a step towards good governance, Sabir maintained.
The Punjab government laid the foundation stone for the extension of Punjab Assembly building in January 2005 and it was scheduled to be completed till September 2007 with the estimated cost of Rs.2.52 billion, says a document. The completion was delayed for about nine years and the cost escalated to Rs.3.5 billion. It is now scheduled to open in upcoming June. The government is planning to convene upcoming budget session for the financial year 2017-18 (electioneering year also) in this newly constructed hall.
The existing assembly building was constructed in 1935 and housed 58 members. It was used to cater to the needs of 240 members until 1999. When the political process was restored in October 2002, the number of constituencies of the Punjab Assembly increased to 371 and the government planned to construct new building with the capacity of 500 seats in the main hall, 600 seats in the galleries for the visitors and 300 seats in the press gallery for the media personnel covering the proceedings of the House. The old building will be preserved as a national asset because of its national importance including hosting of the Second Islamic Summit in 1974.
In the presence of self-acclaimed good governance, use of a huge amount from the public kitty for luxury items tantamount to humiliation and disgrace of the voice and rights of the province’s poor. A social science student Muhammad Arfan says good government is not the priority of the present regime because the rulers are governing the province like private enterprise. Good governance needs vision but they badly lack it.
Political advisor to Chairman PTI Imran Khan, Ejaz Chaudhary says that a common man is not on the priority list of the PML-N government because no steps are taken for his welfare like improvement of education, health, sanitation and employment. If you see mega projects like metro bus and train, these are not cost-effective, as they will benefit less than one per cent of total population of the province.
“Corruption has increased in the public sector as mega corruption scandals including Student Laptop Scheme, Ashiyana Housing Scheme, Sasti Roti and Metro Bus are being criticized by the public,” Chaudhary says, adding, “Postings of junior officers on senior slots have ruined the system, crime rate have increased because of the politicisation of the police.”
Truth Tracker contacted Punjab government spokesperson Malik Muhammad Ahmed and provincial minister Zaeem Qadari repeatedly for government viewpoint but they refrained from comment.