The government has withdrawn all civil servants serving as project directors of mega development schemes, due to massive mismanagement of public funds.
The decision to remove the bureaucrats was taken by the government nearly a year ago, but is being implemented now.
The move is expected to save millions of taxpayer rupees, otherwise being spent on expenses related to the managing of offices, vehicles and paying monthly salaries to these select bureaucrats.
Bureaucrats, who had been given this additional responsibility, had also been drawing multiple salaries from the government, securing privileged packages for themselves and extending their projects for personal benefits.
In some cases, bureaucrats who were also working under the federal department, while serving as project directors were given a hefty project allowance fixed according to their pay scale.
The misuse of taxpayer rupees was so visible that Punjab withdrew its bureaucrats from such projects back in 2011. However, the three other provinces were not ready to implement such austerity measures, mostly due to clout wielded by the provincial bureaucracy.
According to new guidelines issued by the finance ministry and the planning commission, if the cost of a project is more than Rs1 billion, an independent project director will be hired through a competitive hiring process, while bureaucrats will not be allowed to apply for such an opening.
On the other hand, if the cost of a project is less than Rs1 billion, the government will delegate the responsibility to civil servants.
However, they will not receive any of the benefits given to independent project directors, planning commission spokesperson Ishfaquallah Khan said. Khan went on to add that officials given the additional responsibility will receive a maximum allowance of Rs 6,000.
Earlier, a grade-20 officer was given Rs50,000 as project allowance, while a grade-21 officer was given Rs60,000 including a 1300cc vehicle for official use.
The project director is given the responsibility of project execution which includes managements of costs and meeting schedules. However, the office was being used as a tool to give additional benefits to blue-eyed bureaucrats, especially in capacity-building projects.
Interestingly, even though the government had abandoned Vision 2030 propagated by General Pervez Musharraf, the planning commission up till recently had a project director for the plan; costing hundreds of thousands rupees monthly.
The planning commission has been running 19 capacity-building projects, mostly to accommodate either serving or retired bureaucrats. It has now decided to shut down 15 projects, saving Rs24 billion on this account. The projects will be formally shut down on June 30.
“If an independent project director is required to be appointed for a project costing less than Rs1 billion, the case should be submitted for approval to the Central Development Working Party (CDWP),” said the new guidelines.
The decision was taken last May in a meeting of the executive committee of the National Economic Council, headed by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
The comprehensive rules also state that if retired officers are required as project directors, prior permission of the federal government will be sought. In the case of former civil servants, the permission will be authorised by the establishment division, while military officers will be given permission from the defence ministry.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.