PESHAWAR: Despite drawing flak from the opposition over its legality and need, the provincial assembly on Friday passed the Rs23.17 billion supplementary budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly approved all demands for grants in the bill as the opposition members withdrew their cut motions following assurances from the ministers concerned that the issues they had raised will be addressed.
During Friday’s session, members of the opposition challenged the legality of the supplementary budget. Khushdil Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) again raised the legality of the supplementary budget.
“I need clarification on certain constitutional points,” he said, “The finance minister should tell us whether it is a supplementary budget or is it excess?” Khushdil asked, as he explained that if it was the latter, it cannot be presented under Article 124 of Constitution which deals with supplementary grants.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA’s) Inayatullah Khan said that the language used in the supplementary budget was in future tense when it should be in the past tense since the money has already been spent in FY2017-18.
At this, Deputy Speaker Mehmood Jan —who was chairing the session —adjourned the sitting for 10 minutes to rectify the issue.
After the break, K-P Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra defined the excess budget as those expenses which were unforeseen and had not been approved by the cabinet.
On the other hand, a supplementary budget is that which includes expense which has already been approved from by the cabinet.
K-P law minister Sultan Muhammad Khan chipped in by saying that if the opposition and the government do not agree on a legal point then the speaker will have to pronounce a final decision.
“The ruling of the speaker attains finality. You give the ruling so that we can proceed,” Sultan urged Jan.
Despite Sultan’s attempts to get on with the proceedings, Inayatullah reminded him that the dispute remains.
This did little to change Jan’s mind who ruled in favour of the government.
“As per the finance minister, it is a supplementary budget under Article 124,” Deputy Speaker Jan ruled.
MMA’s Munawar Khan tried to interrupt the proceedings, noting that rulings must be supported by solid reasons. But told him that as per rules rulings cannot be objected to in the assembly and the members can challenge it in court.
Inayatullah also asked Munawar to drop the subject since the speaker had already given his ruling.
Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party (ANP) suggested that the trend of re-appropriation of funds should be discouraged and stop.
Responding to a question from the opposition, Jhagra said that they have not included the newly merged tribal districts.
“In the next fiscal year, the budget of the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata) will be part of the provincial [government’s] budget,” Jhagra explained.
“Fata funds will only be used for Fata and not for the rest of the province,” he declared emphatically. “This message should reach the people of the tribal areas that their funds will only be spent on them,” he said while responding to queries regarding the budget for the tribal districts.
“A decade-long Fata development plan has been prepared by the planning commission and has been acted upon and can be easily reached,” he said, adding that in the next budget, they will be in a good position to make modifications and bring reforms in the budgeting.
“We will try to spend the government’s money only in the areas where it is needed,” he said.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Sahibzada Sanaullah requested that copies of the budget documents be provided in the Urdu language.
Jhagra responded that they were working on improving the budget books and that this year’s budget will be translated into Pashto and Urdu and next year all the budget documents will be in Urdu and Pashto.
Babak said that communities should be tasked with the job of building additional rooms in schools so that they can not only own the buildings but will also help reduce the cost of the building.
“The contractor should be removed from the process and the communities should be involved to reduce the construction cost of the schools,” he said, as he urged the government to presents its plans regarding changes in the local government system.
He also sought a briefing from the government on the loans which the federal government had recently taken from Saudi Arabia.
“You should also discuss the K-P Ehtesab Commission with us,” he demanded.
Inayatullah disclosed that while the provincial government had given billions to 22,000 schools. However, the money was apparently for show the NAB filing references against them.
He also shared suggestions for improvement in the local government system.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2018.