The information minister of the PTI government Fawad Chaudhry made the tall claim to abolish all the discretionary funds of prime minister and all the ministers and members of parliament. This claim was made by the information minister after the second cabinet meeting of the new government. The minister also claims to save 51 billion rupees through this measure. The PTI supporters and ministers hailed this step to save the tax payers money.
This sounds familiar. The PML-N government made the similar claims when it took power in 2013. They also announced to abolish the discretionary funds of prime minister and ministers. So it is really confusing. How one thing can be abolished twice? Either PML-N told lies to the people or PTI is trying to fool them. Let’s try to find the reality.
According to senior investigative journalist of The News Umar Cheema, “a sum of just Rs80 million a year used to be allocated to the prime minister, which he would largely spend on entertaining the applications of needy people for free medical treatment and the like. Even incumbent government officials agree this was not a substantial allocation”.
“A special fund of Rs1 million used to be allocated to each cabinet member, but had already been abolished by the previous government. The practice of releasing secret funds to different ministries had also been stopped by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) administration; the intelligence agencies remained the only exception to this rule. The PML-N government had also announced the abolition of discretionary development funds to MNAs, although this practice continued under different official nomenclature”.
The matter of the fact is that discretionary funds were abolished by the PML-N government. Whatever announcements were made by former jailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif never materialized. Even those schemes which were implemented were approved by ECC and ministry of finance. It was in fact the development money which Prime Minister spends or announced.
In fact, PTI government has stopped the allocations of development work in the constituencies of MNAs. These are not discretionary funds but instead these are development funds for members of the national assembly belonging to the ruling coalition. This will be a big test for the PTI government to abolish all sort of development funds for MNAs. PML-N government allocated hefty funds for the development projects in the constituencies of the ruling party legislatures.
The PML-N government made many pledges and announcements when it formed the government in 2013. It took some austerity measures in the first year of its government but rolled back most of the measures to please the ruling party legislatures.
PML-N government did abolished discretionary funds of prime minister and ministers. But it failed to stop the development funds for MNAs. The amount of 51 billion rupees mentioned by Fawad Chaudhry in his media talk was also the allocation for the different development projects undertook in different constituencies. It was not a discretionary fund at the disposal of former prime minister. The use of term discretionary created confusion. It gives the impression that even after making the announcement to abolish discretionary funds; the former prime minister continues to use these funds.
PTI should stop these allocations according to its manifesto. But PTIshould not mix the discretionary funds and development funds. It should make it clear that it will not give any direct funding for the constituency based projects to legislatures. But instead will spend this money through local governments.
The PTI government has every right to bring out the every wrong doing, misuse of authority and corruption of PML-N government but it should not distort the facts in this process. Accountability is an integral part of the democratic system but it should be across the board and transparent. Truth must come out but it should not be a selective truth.
Even the PTI provincial government in KPK failed to abolish development funds. Both the former CM Khattak and former finance minister spend millions of rupees in their constituencies. So this practice must stop. PTI should implement its manifesto to make changes in the development pattern and allocations of the funds. PTI must use its constitutional and democratic right to bring reforms in the governance and economic structure.
By Khalid Bhatti ACE News