The deceased bodies a financial liability on the chessboard

Some public sector bodies of the Punjab government have disappeared and are an undue burden on the public treasury. They include Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA), Provincial Strategic Coordinating Council, Ministry of Home Affairs and a few others.

PUDA was established within the Punjab Irrigation Department (PID) in 1997 to introduce reforms with the participation of farmers. Donor agencies had funded him to establish the inclusive farmer project. However, nothing like this could be done, instead things got worse. Regional water authorities and farmers’ organizations (FOs) have been trained under this vast project in selected areas. Under the new scheme, the Punjab Irrigation Department (PID) was to be abolished and replaced by PIDA.

According to the World Bank, farmers’ organizations have resolved more than 2,800 water disputes, including 1,758 cases related to water theft. According to a survey, the amount of water in the system has increased as water theft issues have been addressed. The purpose of creating the authority was to involve farmers in the decision-making process of canal water management, but unfortunately the political elite and bureaucracy did not allow its success.

The government of Punjab, by an ordinance, abrogated the authority. However, another authority without functions was created. The reason given for repealing the PIDA was that the authority had failed to achieve its objectives. There was less collection of Abiyana in areas under PIDA i.e. 45% in its jurisdiction compared to the department which was 70%. After the conversion of PIDA into Punjab Khal Panchayat Authority (PKPA) in May 2019, its function disappeared completely but the army of senior and junior officers are still stationed here.

Sources also said that there are three general manager positions, in this department where 20th grade chief engineers of the irrigation department are assigned and they also receive deputies allowance in addition to salaries. The Secretary of the Department of Irrigation is the chief executive of this authority. Similarly, there are posts of deputy general managers where supervising engineers of the supervising department are appointed with all the privileges.

It should be noted that the secretary of the department receives a car, benefits and 400 liters of gasoline from the authority. This is in addition to what he is asking for from the department. Similarly, the minister who is the chairman of the authority also receives 400 liters of gasoline and other social benefits. The managing directors each receive three hundred liters of gasoline and other monetary facilities. The benefits of assistant general managers and other officers are distinct. Drivers and other ministerial personnel are added to this.

A former senior authority figure explained why they receive salaries and benefits when there is no work at PKPA. He said that on the one hand, junior officers were appointed to senior positions in the irrigation department, while on the other hand, senior officers were dismissed here. He suggested that the government should eliminate all transfers of senior officers and merge junior staff in the irrigation department. Apart from that, instead of giving them salaries without considerable charges, they should be given responsibilities in various matters; otherwise, they should be removed according to the directory’s removal policy.

It should be noted that the department’s performance is very unsatisfactory, water theft is common, and there is no ransom recovery mechanism. Although there are common stories of corruption in major projects, as the letter from the Asian Development Bank says it all. According to the documents, there are four slots for the 20th year in the defunct PKPA. One of the General Managers and 3 General Managers (administration, finance and operations). Added to this are four deputy general manager posts in grade 19, 15 executive posts in grade 18 and 84 officer posts in grade 17. Similarly, there are many slots for junior staff. A total of 285 sanctioned positions exist in the authority and 151 are filled while 134 are vacant.

Moreover, according to the sources, the total budget approved for the authority for the year 2021-22 was 292 million rupees, including 200 million rupees for salaries, 39 million rupees for travel and transport, 26 million for advertisements and 12 million for repairs and maintenance. CM Ch Parvez Elahi, Chief Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal, Minister Hashim Dogar and Finance Secretary Wasif Khurshid should take note of various bodies which are almost extinct like PKPA, PSCB etc. Such projects should be abolished and their personnel utilized in parent departments. Otherwise, the waste of public money will continue unabated. In addition, the authorities should also conduct a thorough study to find out why these foreign funding programs with popular participation generally fail.

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