RAWALPINDI: After the promulgation of the new local government system in Punjab, the Provincial Minister for Local Government and Community Development (LGCD) Basharat Raja on Thursday directed the newly delimited local bodies across the province to prepare and submit their budget proposals by the end of this month.
Each local body has been directed to prepare two budgets, one for the period before the enforcement of the new system dating from July 1, 2019, to November 6, 2019, and the second for November 7, to June 30.
The deadline for the submission of both budgets has been set as February 29. After this, the local bodies will send their budgets to the provincial minister.
The budget will have to identify new income sources and development schemes referred by elected representatives. The minister has further directed elected representatives to prioritise schemes relating to the provision of clean drinking water.
Further, the Punjab government will release Rs10 million for each union council (UC) in the next fiscal budget, while the federal government would release Rs150 million for every member national assembly (MNA).
Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Tehsil Council has released Rs140 million so that 19 neighbourhood councils can start issuing tenders for development projects.
Some 150 development schemes, including the repair and construction of water supply and sewerage lines, storm drains, roads and such have been proposed for these neighbourhood councils.
Under the new system, the 24 rural UCs in the Rawalpindi Tehsil Council have been merged into the Rawalpindi Metropolitan Corporation (RMC) and they have renamed as neighbourhood councils.
Tenders for the related development schemes in the merged UCs will be issued by March while the deadline for completion of projects will be June 30.
100% increase in water charges for private schools
The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) has suddenly dropped a bomb on private schools in Rawalpindi, stating that it will now start changing schools as per the tariff set for their category. As a result, private schools could see their water bills jump by as much as 100 per cent.
The authority has also decided to make changes in its billing cycle by sending bills on monthly basis onwards instead of quarterly billing.
The Rawalpindi chapter of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association (APPSMA) has rejected the new charges, demanding that the authority to reverse its decision.
A delegation of APPSMA headed by Rawalpindi APPSMA President Abrar Ahmed Khan also called on the Wasa Managing Director (MD) Iftikharuddin Naeem on Thursday and put forward their concerns.
Abrar told the Wasa chief that the private schools used to pay Rs532 per month in water charges which has suddenly increased a 100 per cent to Rs5,000 per month.
APPSMA team further complained about the changes in the billing cycle, from quarterly to monthly. The delegation said that the rise in the charges has spread panic amongst private school owners.
He claimed that hundreds of private schools have already shut closed down due to unfriendly policies of the incumbent government while increasing water and sewage charges will only add to their difficulties.
The APPSMA- Rawalpindi president suggested that Wasa install water metres in schools to calculate their actual water consumption and bill accordingly. He further demanded a briefing on the changes in billing categories for private schools.
Wasa MD said that the authority had recently conducted a survey after which various private schools were placed in different categories corresponding to the number of buildings they were using.
However, on the demand of the delegation, Naeem formed a committee which will visit private schools to check which ones had been marked incorrectly for changes in category.
Regarding the installation of water metres, Wasa MD said that a project in this regard was in the pipeline and their installation will commence once it was finalised.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2020.