Punjab’s citizens have no say in budget preparation for dist govts

RAWALPINDI: A majority of the district governments in Punjab prepared their annual budgets without public consultation and following rules and regulations due to the absence of the elected local government system.

This was stated in a report, ‘Study of budget making process at district level in Punjab (2014-15)’ prepared by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), which was launched at a local hotel.

The launching ceremony was attended by PTI MPAs Arif Abbasi, Asif Mehmood, PML-N Zaibun Nisa, district officer budget Israr Ahmed and CPDI programme manager Syed Kausar Abbas.

The report covered the working of district governments in 36 districts and said poor performance of the local governments depicted a lack of political oversight.

“The local government elections are the only solution to increase the public participation in the budget-making process.”

It added that transparent, accountable and rule-based government was the key prerequisite for a well-functioning democracy.

Study says elections must to ensure political oversight of LG system

The study was based on a survey conducted in all the districts of Punjab to examine the budget-making process at the district level.

The process is being analysed keeping in view the Punjab District Government and Tehsil Municipal Administration Budget Rules 2003.

These rules have laid out in clear terms the procedures for the formation and approval of budgets at the district level.

The survey results showed very depressing trends. Only 14 districts issued the budget call letters (BCL) before October 31, 2013, though according to the budget rules it should be sent by end-September of each year.

Only in 11 districts, all the drawing and disbursement officers (DDOs) submitted the estimates of expenditure on time. Similarly, the collecting officers (COs) of only eight districts, out of the 36, prepared and submitted the estimates of receipts for the coming fiscal year.

Most of the districts in the province were working with inefficient budget staff that had little capacity to prepare the budget on time.

There were only nine districts where the budget branch was in an excellent condition and can efficiently manage the budget while the remaining districts lacked capacity to carry out smooth functioning of the process of the budget making.

With a total sanctioned strength of 535 persons in the budget branch, only 289 were active employees in 36 districts. The data showed that half of the district governments were managed by below the bare requirement to run the budget branch of the district government.

Only five districts were working with full sanctioned strength, 13 districts were without any budget officers, only two districts had research staff while 13 districts were working with untrained staff and four had no internet facility.

Similarly, only 10 district governments have functional websites and even here only six districts have uploaded their annual budgets.

On the public participation in the budget-making process, most of the district governments were very weak. As many as 32 districts, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal, were very weak on engaging the public in the process.

Published in Dawn, September 10th , 2014

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