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Punjab govt banned ministers foreign visits for treatment abroad on state expenses

16 September, 2017

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LAHORE: The Punjab government has banned foreign visits and treatment abroad on state expenses by any minister, MPA or official. It has also slapped ban on recruitment against vacant posts and upgrade of posts besides procurement of locally assembled and imported new vehicles out of the current and development budgets.

The provincial government has directed all administrative secretaries, commissioners, deputy commissioners, heads of attached and autonomous bodies and other officials concerned to remain restricted to their budgetary allocations and observe utmost austerity in use of public money through prudent financial management.

It instructed its officials to strictly curb the waste of resources and leakage of funds. The strict compliance of austerity measures will also be applicable on the local governments as well.

Superseding the Sept 19, 2016, letter, the Punjab finance department has issued fresh austerity and economy measures for 2017-18 to observe financial discipline in the province by judiciously reducing expenditure but aligning with the organisational goals to make them target-based and cost-efficient.

Aimed at effective and economic use of public money, the Punjab government has banned foreign air travel of ministers, MPAs and government officials through government funding. Similarly, no official or elected representative will be allowed treatment abroad at government’s expense during the current fiscal.

Banning recruitment against vacant posts, the government has rested the power to recruit officials with the approval of the chief minister alone. The ban on upgrade of posts, however, will not be applicable to the powers delegated under the Delegation of Financial Powers Rules, 2016.

In order to check expenditure, the government has imposed complete ban on procurement of locally assembled and imported new vehicles out of current and development budgets except ambulances and operational vehicles for hospitals (except cars and jeeps). The departments concerned will also be allowed to purchase tractors, dumpers, water bowsers, fire-fighting vehicles, flood relief and solid waste management equipment and vehicles.

In case of purchasing vehicles, the respective departments will have to seek prior concurrence of the Austerity Committee and subsequent approval of the chief minister through submission of summary.

The Punjab government has also sustained its previous year’s decision of keeping the ministers’ discretionary and house furnishing grants withdrawn.

Banning procurement of durable goods including generators and air-conditioners except with the prior approval of the Austerity Committee, the government has allowed purchase of generators required for sewage disposal and water supply schemes and running of tubewells.

The Punjab government has directed the administrative departments to stay limited to their budgetary allocations to minimise the incidence of supplementary grants. In case of unavoidable circumstances, the department concerned would be required to seek approval of the provincial cabinet and the cabinet committee on finance and development.

With regard to the placement of funds in bank accounts of entities, the government has instructed all departments concerned that parking of public funds, provided by the provincial government from its budgetary allocation, is not allowed in commercial bank accounts of companies, authorities and autonomous bodies. Instead, the finance department will release funds to such entities in relevant SDAs or through normal release code.

These funds will be further transferred from SDAs into commercial bank accounts of such entities as per cash flow requirements of entities to avoid unnecessary parking of funds.

The government has allowed that contingent paid staff can be hired, only in extremely emergent case, according to powers specified in the Delegation of Financial Powers Act, 2016. “However, the departments shall remain within the budgetary allocations for this purpose and no re-appropriation shall be allowed and no additional funds as supplementary grant shall be provided for this head during the current financial year.”

The government has asked that the Departmental and Special Departmental Accounts Committee meetings should be held regularly under intimation to finance department so as to ensure internal audit of respective departments and organisations. It has exempt the Punjab health department, education department, IDAP, Punjab Food Authority and PAFDA from austerity measures for the current financial year. However, these departments will not be exempt in case of purchasing cars and jeeps.
Austerity committee

The Punjab government has also constituted a seven-member Austerity Committee headed by finance minister Dr Ayesha Ghous-Pasha to examine and recommend procurement of vehicles and cases for foreign visits as well as examine and decide the procurement of generators and air-conditioners by the administrative and attached departments, autonomous bodies, corporations and local governments in line with the austerity drive to curtail current and development expenditure of the provincial government.

This committee will also consider unavoidable cases of foreign visits and recommend to the chief minister for his final approval. “The government’s guidelines still suggest that the provincial ministers and civil servants shall travel in economy class on domestic flights and ministers shall travel in one class below than their entitlement while traveling abroad.”

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