With the annual increase in the salaries of government employees, the provincial and federal governments have decided to merge the annual increments with other allowances instead of making it a part of the basic pay scale. As allowances are temporarily beneficial for employees, adding increased salaries into allowances will not benefit them after retirement.
There are different types of allowances that government employees receive from their respective departments. The increase in salaries is part of the ‘ad-hoc relief allowance,’ which has been mentioned separately in budget documents from fiscal years 2009-10 to 2019-20.
According to a former bureaucrat who served as the federal secretary, merging the annual increments with the basic pay will put a ‘heavy financial burden’ on the government. Therefore, governments do not add this increment into the basic pay of the employees.
“Some benefits relate to the percentage of the salary. In case the basic pay figure goes up, the benefits will also increase. And governments are not in a position to bear such increases,” he told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
Retired bureaucrat Aftab Memon shared a similar concern. He said if the government merges ‘ad-hoc relief’ into the basic pay scale of the employees, their pensions will also increase.
“The pension is a permanent liability, therefore, the government will not be able to afford such a huge amount on a continuous basis,” he said. “Therefore, the increment is added to allowances which cannot be claimed after retirement.”
According to the official budget documents of Punjab, the land revenue department provided Rs1.46 billion to its employees on account of allowances. There are some 40 regular allowances enlisted in the budget documents, including ‘ad-hoc relief’. Other allowances comprise those for house rent, conveyance, washing, integrated allowance, fixed daily allowance, prison, risk allowance, hill allowance, qualification allowance, medical, fixed stationery, utility, personal allowance, and ration, among others.
In Sindh, the provincial assembly was allowed to spend Rs260 million on allowances during the financial year 2019-20. Instead, it spent Rs473 million. The travelling allowance being paid to lawmakers is not included in this amount. It is pertinent to mention that a huge amount is paid as travelling allowance to lawmakers who come to Karachi from other districts of the province for attending assembly sessions.
The Sindh Assembly also provides different allowances to its MPAs including telephone allowance, office maintenance allowance, equipment allowance, travelling allowance for their study tours, and conveyance allowance. That apart, the assembly also pays for the fuel charges of lawmakers. According to the budget document, an amount of Rs250 million is being distributed among lawmakers on account of session allowance.
Other allowances that the assembly provides to its employees include the senior post, house rent, conveyance, sumptuary, washing, medical, legislative, entertainment, computer, orderly, and mobile phone allowances.
About Rs50 million is spent each year by the provincial assembly on account of medical allowances and Rs19 million on mobile phone allowances for its employees. According to Sindh Assembly Secretary Umar Farooq Buriro, the mobile phone allowance and house rent allowance are only for employees.
Per the budget documents, the Governor House has also spent Rs309 million on different allowances during the 2019-20 financial year. Similarly, the Chief Minister House has spent Rs578 million in paying different allowances to its employees, while according to official figures, Rs117 million were spent on secretariat allowances alone.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2020.