Senators on Wednesday questioned the role of Higher Education Commission (HEC) in disbursing funds to the universities after the 18th Amendment.
Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash, who chaired the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Training meeting, reprimanded HEC Chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari for approaching finance ministry for the release of Rs5.9 billion funds meant for universities which should, in principle, be given to the provinces.
“Why did you move the ministry in person when a body has already been constituted for the release of funds,” Bangash asked Laghari.
HEC Executive Director Dr Mukhtar Ahmad apologised for the letter written to the finance ministry and agreed that there should be a plan for the construction of universities.
The senators discussed the role of the HEC and its funding mechanism after the devolution of education ministry to the provinces.
The committee had directed a sub-committee to ensure the release of funds for universities.
The body ordered a committee be constituted comprising HEC executive director (ED), finance secretary and the education secretary for the immediate release of the remaining funds.
Senator Raza Rabbani said after devolution the rules of business were also amended. “The Council of Common Interests amended the rules concerning the HEC and the new law is still pending with the law ministry,” he said.
Senator Ilyas Bilour asked why funds were released to the HEC and not to the provinces. Bangash said an amendment was needed for the direct release of funds to the provinces which would distribute them to universities.
Rabbani said it would have to be done as neither in the India Act 1935 nor in the 1973 Constitution were education and health federal subjects. The committee warned the HEC of any step which could attract the ire of the committee.
Senator Afrasiab Khattak commented that the committee was fighting for the cause of higher education but rules of business should at least be followed.
The chairperson of the committee also raised a question mark on the ‘rapid’ construction of 23 universities in recent years.
The committee also talked of the role, vision, goals and output of National Commission for Human Development.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.