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Rs600bn supplementary grants sail through assembly

Rs600bn supplementary grants sail through assembly

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Friday gave post-facto approval to Rs599.4 billion supplementary grants for expenditure overruns and re-appropriations during the current fiscal year, sometimes for unexplained causes and princely uses.

The supplementary grants for current fiscal year have spiked by 93 per cent from last year’s Rs310.5bn budget overruns and have occurred after former finance minister Ishaq Dar had to leave the country for ‘medical reasons’ amid a political crisis.

The approvals to Rs599.4bn supplementary grants included a major chunk of Rs415bn expenditure overruns having additional financial impact on the federal budget while remaining Rs185bn pertained to appropriations of technical nature.

The assembly did not have an option to challenge these additional grants and had to approve these expenditures as fait accompli because the amount is considered to have been already spent.

An unexplained and unapproved expenditure of Rs4.335bn has to be allowed to the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence “for accomplishment of a special assignment”.

Some of these ‘additional burden on budget’ expenditures pertained to discretionary dole outs of the prime minister, his publicity, purchase of luxury vehicles for top functionaries, and refurbishment of accommodation facilities for judges and unexplained expenses of intelligence agencies paid out of regular expenditure.

For example, a Rs1.1bn supplementary grant has been allowed for payment of outstanding advertisement dues of electronic and print media and the PM’s special advertisement campaign on health and 70 years of Independence Day celebrations.

About Rs184bn worth of supplementary grants are of technical nature for re-appropriation — shifting funds from one head to another having no additional impact on the budget.

The Ministry of Finance in its written statement said the regular supplementary grants were meant “to provide for expenditure for purposes that were not foreseen at the time of finalisation of demands for grants. Such supplementary grants put additional burden on the budget”. Strangely enough, the ministry could not foresee a huge expenditure of Rs415bn only 11 months ago.

Supplementary funds of Rs39bn have been allowed to the Defence Division. This includes Rs18bn for fencing and lighting of Pakistan-Afghan border, Rs10bn for raising of special security division, Rs5bn for internal security duty allowance, Rs2.63bn for capacity building of the Army, Rs1bn for the Navy and Rs1bn for welfare of troops deployed along the Line of Control.

Interestingly, a major additional grant of Rs86bn has to be allowed for pension overruns, including Rs73bn of defence pension and about Rs13bn for civil pension.

Most of these supplementary grants are described as charged expenditure out of the federal consolidated fund which is presented to parliament just for information and taken as approved without voting. Simply put, parliament cannot reject it because the amount has already been consumed.

For example, despite repeated claims to reduce subsidies the government in fact exceeded allocations for subsidies by around Rs17bn that has now been charged upon the budget.

An amount of Rs2.335bn was paid for the PM’s fee re-imbursement scheme for students. Another Rs143.3bn was paid unapproved for foreign loans repayments and Rs150bn for ‘other’ expenditures.

An amount of Rs23 million was paid to a British law firm to fight a case against Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Rs200m to Khawar Qureshi in Kulbhushan Jadhav case in an international court and Rs20m to another firm in Karkey arbitration.

A supplementary grant of Rs9.2bn has been sought for expenditure already made on security apparatus, including Rs3.55bn to Frontier Corps deployed on the western border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs3.6bn for Frontier Corps in Quetta and Rs2.2bn cash award to Frontier Corps in KP and Rs1.7bn to Punjab Rangers.

Another Rs1.4bn was spent on the National Counter Terrorism Authority and the Federal Investigation Agency. A Rs15.8bn supplementary grant has been sought for expenditure already made for execution of gas schemes under the PM’s Global Sustainable Development Goals achievement programme in various localities.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2018

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