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Govt to abolish discretionary funds for PM,MNAs,MPAs

25 August, 2018

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The federal cabinet decided on Friday to abolish discretionary funds for the Prime Minister, ministers and members of the National and provincial assemblies.

The announcement was made by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference following the cabinet’s meeting at the Prime Minister’s House.

Terming it the most important decision of the meeting, Chaudhry criticised the previous administration for apparently doling out huge amounts of funds to MNAs and MPAs without debate for the purpose in the Parliament. He said former premier Nawaz Sharif used to distribute projects during his rallies across the country and added that ‘this will not happen any longer’. He claimed that in his last year as the premier, Nawaz Sharif had spent Rs21 billion at his discretion and released Rs30 billion separately to MPAs.

Speaking to Daily Times, policy analyst Safiya Aftab welcomed the move to abolish discretionary funds but said that the figures quoted by the information minister seemed exaggerated. She said that there should be debate in the Parliament on each and every rupee to be spent from the public exchequer.

The ban on discretionary funds was among a seven-point agenda reviewed by the cabinet on Friday.

Explaining details of the remaining six points, Fawad Chaudhry said that as part of his austerity drive, the PM was suspending use of a special plane for foreign visits. The Prime Minister will not travel in first-class any longer. Instead, he would travel in the club-class, a category in between first-class and economy-class. All ministers and government officials would follow the same policy. On a question, Chaudhry said that the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the President would also be requested to follow the policy.

The cabinet also discussed the issue of power outages. The PM was quoted in several media reports as having expressed concern over continued load shedding. He also summoned a detailed report on the electricity distribution system of the country.

In two important decisions, the cabinet decided to undertake country-wide urban tree plantation and sanitation projects. Details of the tree plantation initiative will be shared with the public by the Minister for Climate Change and Environment. “Tree plantation in cities, especially Karachi, is the need of the hours,” Chaudhry said.

Regarding the sanitation project, the cabinet decided to form a taskforce to prepare plans for carrying out a country-wide cleanliness drive.

The PM also issued directives for formation of a taskforce to review the issue of urban housing, with particular attention to matters related to slum settlements across the country.

A summary seeking to increase official working days in a week from five to six was not considered by the cabinet as it decided to continue with the five-day work week. Work hours across all government offices will be from 9am to 5pm.

Another key decision in the cabinet meeting was about the forensic audit of mass transport initiatives undertaken during the previous five years. The cabinet decided to carry out forensic audit of mass-transport projects in Multan, Islamabad, Peshawar as well as Lahore, including the Orange Line Metro Train project.

“Billions were spent on these projects. Despite spending so much money, they still require funds to operate. If needed, the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] will be tasked to investigate this,” the information minister said.

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