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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, while expressing serious reservations over the divide of social safety net programs under the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation has called for the integration of all the social safety net programs including Ehsaas, Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), Pakistan Baitul Mal and the poverty alleviation fund.

These recommendations were made by the subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which held its meeting here under the chairmanship of Member National Assembly Riaz Fityana to discuss and review audit paras related to the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and the attached departments.

The chairman committee and other members asked the Principal Accounting Officer (PAO) of the ministry to convey the message of the panel to the relevant quarters over the spread of the social safety net programs in various separate entities, while all the entities have same objectives of social protection of the poor segment of the society.

The panel observed that Ehsaas, BISP, Pakistan Baitul Mal and the Poverty Alleviation Fund all have the same objectives but are working as separate entities, which is "useless and waste of the national resources" on administrative matters ranging from paying building rents, utilities bills, and creating confusion among the needy people, which department should be consulted for which reason.

They said that there should be one entity dealing with social safety and poverty alleviation.

The officials of the BISP informed the panel that for this year budgeted amount is Rs250 billion of which only four billion is for administrative purposes while the rest of the amount is for various poverty alleviation-related projects.

Officials of the Pakistan Baitul Mal said that the total budgeted amount for the ongoing financial year is Rs6 billion of which Rs1.5 billion is for administrative purposes. The official said that the Baitul Mal's operations were spread all over the country and at present, it was operating through 158 offices, while the budgeted amount is not sufficient to cater to the needs of the needy people.

The panel recommended the government to increase the funding for the Baitul Mal from the present level of Rs6 billion to at least Rs35-40 billion in the next financial year, in a bid to enable it to better serve the people. The officials informed the panel that the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation has just initiated the one-window operation to serve the needy people.

They added that first such office has been opened in Islamabad, wherein, Ehsaas, BISP, Baitul Mal and Poverty Alleviation Fund staff is serving the masses under one roof. The officials said that the government has planned to expand one-window operation to each district of the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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