ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may lose its claim over a grant worth millions of dollars committed by foreign donors for the rehabilitation of people affected by Operation Zarb-e-Azb because of bureaucratic bickering.
The additional financing for Fata Rural Livelihoods and Community Infrastructure Project could lapse by the end of next month, because of the delay by Fata Secretariat in getting the project’s PC-1 approved even after eight months, said sources in the World Bank.
The original cost of this project was $12 million and the multi-donor trust fund committed an additional $8.1 million. However, swift action is needed for securing additional funds, said the sources.
The World Bank recently approached the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to avoid the money from lapsing.
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The additional financing was meant for providing essential rehabilitation services to temporarily displaced persons in the North Wazirstan Agency, especially provision of drinking water and demand-driven jobs.
The displaced persons were expected to return by the end of December last year, but some of them returned to camps because of the absence of basic community infrastructure.
Officially, there should not have been any displaced person after December 31 last year: the government also stopped their monthly stipends.
Under these circumstances, some bureaucrats at the Fata Secretariat were busy settling personal scores instead of helping people, said the sources.
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About a dozen countries had pooled the money under the multi-donor trust fund. The money is administered by the WB and used for various development activities in Fata, K-P and Balochistan.
No financing agreement could be signed for the additional $8.1 million, unless the Fata Secretariat approved the project’s PC-I. However, there is a likelihood that the grant will expire on March 31 this year.
Additional chief secretary for Fata Fida Wazir is blamed for the delay because of his differences with the project team.
Wazir wanted to replace the entire project team but they approached the court for relief.
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According to a petition filed by at least 18 employees in the Peshawar High Court, the Fata Secretariat was replacing them with favourites.
Even the Economic Affairs Division also criticised the Fata Secretariat’s untimely move, threatening the project.
“EAD termed the Fata Secretariat’s move to lay off the staff at a critical stage surprising, affecting the smooth implementation of the project,” according to EAD documents.
The EAD asked the Fata Secretariat to justify its drastic step of firing people. The secretariat also withheld salaries of the staff for the past year.
A project implementation status report prepared by the WB in October last year states: “With the management change in the Project Management Unit in March 2015, activities have picked up pace and did well by realising more than 94 per cent of the end-of-project targets by the current closing date.” The findings suggested that the team was doing well.
The original project became effective in early 2012 and the multi-donor trust fund gave $12 million assistance for the project.
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The original grant benefited as many as 350,000 people directly and indirectly.
The project’s original closing date was June 2015 and since then, four extensions had been granted for completing the tasks.
The World Bank was keen to extend the project by the end of next year, subject to approval of the project’s PC-I for the additional financing of $8.1 million, said the sources. The trust fund’s steering committee approved the additional financing in June last year.
Director-General Projects of the Fata Secretariat, Islam Zaib and Muhammad Zahoor, who is the project’s coordinator, were unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2017.