PESHAWAR: Despite claims from the government that it has prioritized previously underserved sectors such as education in the province, the government has now found itself in a different fix —a struggle to spend allocated funds.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has shown the way to other provinces on how to allocate money for areas such as education in the amount of money it has allocated for education, doubling from Rs61 billion in 2013 to Rs138 billion in the ongoing fiscal year. However, the government has spent just 31 per cent of the allocated budget in the first half of the fiscal year 2017-18.
The K-P government had earmarked Rs20.3 billion for uplift schemes in the education sector this year. Of this, Rs14 billion had been allocated for elementary and secondary education and Rs6.3 billion for higher education.
But documents from the K-P Planning and Development Department, available with The Express Tribune, show that the government released Rs7.88 billion in the first part of the year to the K-P Elementary and Secondary Education Department. Of this, the department managed to spend only Rs4.71 billion, or around 33 per cent of the total allocation of Rs14 billion.
Similarly, out of Rs6.3 billion allocated to the higher education department, the government released Rs2.25 billion so far of which the department could only spend Rs1.83 billion.
The K-P government earmarked Rs208 billion for its Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the fiscal year 2017-18 which include a Rs82 billion component of foreign assistance and Rs126 billion component which was supposed to be provided by the provincial government.
The government has so far released Rs61.4 billion of this and the departments have only been able to spend around R43.8 billion, which makes up around 34.8 per cent of the ADP.
This was lower than the spend by the government at the same stage last year when departments had managed to spend 36 per cent of their allocated funds.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official in the K-P Finance Department who did not wish to be named shared that various departments have slowed down as he pointed to the utilization by the elementary and secondary education department. Similarly, the higher education sector spent only 29 per cent of total available funds while Rs2.2 billion were released against the total allocation of Rs6.3 billion.
In the health sector, Rs5.3 billion were released out the total allocation of Rs12 billion but the department cautiously spent only Rs3.2 billion. This meant that the department spent 26.9 per cent of its total allocation in the first half of the fiscal year.
The water sector, by comparison, spent 60.8 per cent of its total allocation while Rs4.7 billion was released for it against the total Rs7 billion.
The official, however, said that allocations for these sectors are also small when compared to the prioritized sectors of health, education, roads and water.
Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA) Programme Manager Malik Masood told The Express Tribune that despite the claims by the government, nothing has changed on the ground in past four years since the government has failed to properly utilise the allocated budget for developmental sectors.
He added that initially, they explained their troubles away by claiming that this was the first time the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was in power and that things were new for them which is why they had failed to utilise their budget properly.
Masood added that while the tenure of the PTI government in the province was almost over, they have not yet learnt to fully utilize the budget.
He added that the PTI government had declared an education emergency in the health sector, but it has failed to resolve even basic problems.
K-P Elementary and Secondary Education Additional Secretary Khalid Khan explained that he was not aware that the budget had not been properly utilized and refused to comment any further.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior government official, who did not wish to be named for fear of retribution, said that budget utilisation is usually slow in the first half of year but picks up in second half.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2018.