In apparent defiance of a Supreme Court ban on the transfer of discretionary funds, the federal government has allocated billions of rupees for the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Metro Bus service even before the budget for the next fiscal.
In the December 5, 2013 ruling, the top court had banned the transfer of funds from an account approved by Parliament to another as technical supplementary grant. This ruling curtailed the government’s discretionary powers, which are often used in May and June.
To legalise its move for the re-appropriation of billions of rupees for the Metro Bus service, the government on Monday submitted a plea seeking an early hearing of its review petition against the court ruling on May 15.
In its fresh application, the government submitted that the reallocation of around Rs7.7 billion is urgently required for the Metro Bus project. The move raises questions about the project commencement without the permission of the top court.
Active lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain contended that the government has committed contempt of court by allocating a budget for the Metro Bus project in violation of the SC judgment.
The government is urging the apex court to review its ban so that funds could be diverted to 38 projects of ‘national importance’ including Metro Bus project that need Rs12.5 billion more before the close of this fiscal year.
Apart from Metro Bus, another project of ‘national importance’ is the Rs2 billion Karachi Coastal Power Project, known as K2 and K3.
However, the other projects requiring finances are mostly related to kitchen gardening, housing, air-conditioning at the Supreme Court branch registry and judges rest house at Bath Island, Karachi; the acquisition of land and construction of office-cum-residential building for IB staff at DI Khan; the establishment of an environment monitoring system; construction of a non-residential building and other facilities for the force HQ Scouts and 113 Wing at Gilgit; construction of 132KV grid station and feeding transmission line at New Benazir Bhutto International Airport; construction of 20 out of 100 dams in Balochistan; construction of 24 Nos Cat V Aoartnebt at DG TR (IR) in Lahore; water distribution network based on Khanpur dam water source phase II and others.
In its fresh application, the government submitted that ministries and divisions have demanded an additional amount of Rs40 billion during the financial year 2013 to 2014 for their fast-moving projects. The money could partly be arranged through re-appropriation against savings indicated in the review of PSDP 2013 to 2014.
The allocations made in the annual budget for various projects are based purely on projections, the government submitted.
“During the course of the financial year, some projects face implementation issues which hamper progress and allocated funds cannot be utilised thereof. As per financial rules, ministries/divisions/executing agencies recommend diversion of funds from slow-moving projects to fast-track projects, and in certain cases, implementing agencies request for additional funds through re-appropriation within their allocated budget for a year mainly to complete fast-track projects.”
It further submitted that the natural calamity which wreaked havoc in Tharparkar, Sindh, required an urgent utilisation of funds to supplement the Rs1 billion relief package announced by the prime minister. Adequate arrangements have to be made efficiently in the form of appropriations and supplementary grants in order to make the requisite funds available for providing the relief package and for the continuance of relief efforts currently underway.
The government maintained that the issues involved in its review petition are urgent and of great importance, and therefore, the case should be fixed for hearing on May 15.
Meanwhile, Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt also filed a separate application, requesting the court to allow him to argue the case on behalf of the federal government through the finance secretary.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2014.
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