Members of the Public Accounts Committee No 1 of the Punjab Assembly, at a meeting on Tuesday, raised reservations against the slow pace of steps taken by the Irrigation Department to counter water theft in the province.
The committee sought a report on Wednesday (today) on the legislative and procedural steps taken by the department to counter water theft. The meeting was chaired by Sibtain Khan, the deputy opposition leader, in the absence of the committee chairman Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed. MPAs Waris Kallu, Saira Iftikhar, Saqib Khursheed, Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar, Mian Manazir Ranjha and Waheed Asghar Dogar attended the meeting.
The committee discussed the department’s performance and delays in utilisation of funds. Khan asked Irrigation Secretary Saif Anjum about steps the department had taken to curb water theft.
Anjum told the committee that there had been a delay in utilisation of funds was because the Finance Department had put Rs210 million on hold.
He said that the funds would have been used to ensure protective measures against floods ahead of monsoon season.
The committee directed officials of both departments to sit down and solve the matter.
The issue of an audit of the Irrigation Department was also discussed during the meeting.
Members of the public accounts committee expressed reservations regarding audit figures which indicated rising expenses.
The department secretary responded that this was due to recent recruitments of additional staff.
He said that the rise in salaries had increased expenses. Khan asked why the department had hired additional staff.
The committee then asked the department to submit a report on the status of additional staff. Khan said the committee would make a decision in view of the findings of the report.
Saira Iftikhar said that the department should make sure that it did not wrongly implicate small farmers in water theft cases. Waris Kallu and Sibtain Khan expressed similar reservations. They alleged that some officials of the department were involved in water theft.
The committee will continue its meeting Wednesday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2015.
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