The Finance Department has objected to plans made by the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) to buy 14 new cars and six motorbikes for its officials as an unsanctioned purchase that goes against the government’s austerity guidelines, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Finance Department officials said that the foundation had also revised the salaries of its employees and changed their designations without approval from the appropriate authorities.
PEF officials said it was an autonomous body not subject to the Punjab government’s rules, but the Finance Department officials said that any spending of the Punjab’s funds was subject to the rules.
The Finance Department has declared both initiatives unlawful and directed the PEF’s management not to implement the plans, a senior department official said on the condition of anonymity.
The PEF was established in 1991 as an autonomous statutory body operating as a non-profit to promote education among the poor. It was restructured in 2004 to support private sector efforts for education and has an annual fund of Rs10 billion. The foundation is led by a managing director, three deputy managing directors and eight directors. A 15-member board of directors looks after the financial and administrative affairs of the foundation.
The foundation recently issued purchase orders for 14 new cars and six motorbikes for its officials without the approval of the austerity committee headed by the finance minister. The austerity guidelines call for a complete ban on vehicle purchases. Exceptions to this, they state, must first be approved by the austerity committee and the chief minister.
During the first week of April, the foundation introduced a ‘Human Resource Manual’ under which employees were given new titles and pay raises. Finance Department officials said this too was done without their consent. In this re-structuring process, audit officers, web administrators, system analysts, account officers and senior software engineers were declared deputy directors. Accountants, assistant project officers, computer programmers, research analysts, account assistants and audit assistants were declared assistant directors.
A senior Finance Department officer said that the department had noted the change of nomenclature and increase in salaries and directed the PEF to stop it. He said that the PEF had obtained approval for the change in nomenclature from the government’s executive committee instead of the finance committee, which was the relevant forum. “Although it is a foundation, the government’s rules and policies apply as it is being run with public money,” he said.
He voiced concerns that the foundation was spending money meant for poor students on new cars and better pay.
PEF Deputy Managing Director Amer Iftikhar said he was unaware of plans to purchase new vehicles, but the board had approved the nomenclature changes.
PEF Chairman Raja Muhammad Anwer said the foundation was an autonomous body governed by an act and policy formation lay with its board of directors. He said the foundation was autonomous in financial and administrative affairs. He said that the board had approved the purchase of vehicles.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.