It’s a Rs2.97 billion secret, and one that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has yet to reveal.
In its budget for 2011-2012, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting added an extra layer of secrecy– including to budget items it is not required to keep secret – by lumping several items under ‘other expenditure’.
The question of ‘other expenditure’ is now being raised by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), which has submitted a request to the ministry under the Freedom of Information Act 2002, asking for details of the budget head.
In the request, CPDI has asked for certified information about the names of different heads under the ‘Others’ category and budget allocated to each in financial year 2011-12 as well as the total number of discretionary/secret funds maintained by the ministry and their names and budget allocated for these in 2011-12. In addition, the CPDI has requested certified copies of the documents declaring certain funds as secret/discretionary which are being maintained by the ministry.
The information ministry’s official stance is that it cannot reveal extensive details of the Special Publicity Fund, which is usually included in other expenses. This year’s budget documentation, however, does not explain why allocations for the Pakistan Institute of National Affairs, Institute of Regional Studies or the Associated Press of Pakistan are not included.
These allocations were listed in previous budgets, including for the previous financial year. In the 2011-2012 budget, ‘other expenditure’ comprises Rs39.7 million for ‘other industries’, Rs199.8 million for ‘cultural services’ and Rs2.7 billion for ‘broadcasting and publishing’. The total amount is Rs2.97 billion.
The CPDI’s previous request to the ministry for details of the Special Publicity Fund was turned down on the grounds that it is a secret fund and part of the Secret Service Expenditure account. A complaint was filed with the Federal Ombudsman, which was rejected.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.