Chakwal district struggles with deficit worth millions

CHAKWAL: The Chakwal district is facing a Rs600 million deficit and the district administration is said to be paying its employees from funds meant for uplift projects.

“The government has increased civil servants’ salaries by 10pc in this budget and instead of increasing Chakwal’s district’s share in the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) Award, it cut the districts’ share by 15pc,” an official told Dawn, adding that the 15pc cut has been in place since 2009.

In the 2015-16 budget, the Punjab government set the budget for Chakwal at around Rs4.68 billion [4,675.49 million], while the district administration has to pay about Rs4.73 billion [4,827.10 million] to in employees’ salaries.

Therefore, the district administration is short Rs151.6 million in salaries for the year 2015-16.

For the fiscal year 2016-17, Rs5.1 billion [5,060.9 million] were promised in the PFC Award for the Chakwal district which included development funds, while the administration has to overcome a Rs600 million deficit.

Officials have said the financial strain is intensifying every day, because the fixed budget does not account for increasing expenses. They cited the case of promoted teachers, who now have to be paid increased salaries.

The official said employees were paid their salaries from development funds and grants meant for local MPAs.

The district administration is also yet to clear arrears amounting to Rs80 million in pending salaries for 1,303 educators that the Punjab government insisted on having recruited in 2012. “We were facing financial problems, but we had to make the recruitments,” a senior district administration officer told Dawn.

The district administration could not pay the new teachers their salaries for the first five months.

They were paid their salaries for the sixth month and onwards, and the teachers are yet to be given their salaries for the first five months they were employed.

“One of our colleagues died of a kidney problem five months ago because he was not paid his salary for some time and could not afford treatment,” said Qazi Saqib Naveed, president of the Schools Education Staff Union. He said another teacher, Arshad Ali, died last year from a liver disease because he too could not afford treatment.

The many letters that the Chakwal district administration has written to the higher authorities in Lahore have not helped increase funds for Chakwal.

Educators from Chakwal also went to Provincial Ombudsman Javed Mehmood who directed the concerned authorities to clear the arrears, but this is yet to be done.

When asked, District Finance Officer Zamirul Hassan Awan said the higher authorities and provincial minister Malik Tanvir Aslam Awan had said the arrears will soon be paid off. MNA Tahir Iqbal said he will raise the issue with the Punjab chief minister.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2016

Courtesy DAWN