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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, on Monday, termed revised estimates of development projects under the public sector development programme (PSDP), unconstitutional, and against the sanctity of annual budgeting, and summoned officials of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives to explain its authority to slash the development expenditure of various ministries including Pakistan Railway.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) met under Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain, which examined appropriation accounts of Pakistan Railways for year 2018-19 and audit report for the year 2019-20 of the Pakistan Railways.

Members committee expressed their utter displeasure over performance of Pakistan Railway’s delivery in public sector and questioned the federal government why it revised its annual allocation in 2018-19, when the entity required funding for its rolling stock and repair of old rail tracks.

Members committee further observed that the development funds under charged expenditure were not released to the Railways for repayment of loan and other liabilities.

Member Committee Syed Naveed Qamar alleged that once annual development expenditure passed from parliament, any revision or modification by any ministry on some later stage was unconstitutional.

The officials of the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) informed the PAC that Rs7.1 billion was lapsed by management of railways during 2018-19; however, they were satisfied with the explanation of the management that the full grant was not released.

Sherry Rahman, member committee, said 31 fatal train accidents happened due to rolling stock and old railway tracks and on other side their grants were lapse.

Why railways grants lapse? she questioned. Was this railways inability to spend the full grant or inefficiency or lack of capacity? she asked.

Chairman Committee Tanveer said that it was bad budgeting process that supplementary grants to railways and other departments were issued and simultaneously, they were showing lapse or saving in their appropriate accounts.

In another case of appropriation accounts 2018-19, the comparison between allocated budget and actual expenditure clearly showed that the actual expenditure incurred under voted portion of revenue grant was less than the final allocation and there was saving of Rs2.1 billion.

The expenditure incurred under charged portion was Rs796 million and there was saving of Rs203 million, even though liability on account of interest on overdraft and foreign loans was outstanding.

Sherry Rehman said the federal government was doing business of “killing people” by slashing railways grants.

She maintained that it was “criminal and ruthless” negligence on the part of the government to not release the funds for railways.

Citing example of India, she said there was separate discussion on railways budget from the annual budget.

“Poor people who cannot afford PIA were afraid to travel by train due to fatal accidents and poor performance of the railways,” she added. She opposed the chairman’s verdict of settling the audit paras.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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