Streamlining development financing: Bureaucracy putting up resistance
ISLAMABAD, Oct 31: The top bureaucracy is resisting a move by the Planning and Development Division to streamline procedures for approval and financing development projects.
Objections were raised when the Planning Division proposed to abolish the Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP) which is responsible for approving, executing and monitoring small-scale development schemes worth Rs60 million.
The move would strip powers of principal accounting officers or secretaries to initiate small-scale projects worth Rs60 million, such as capacity-building or carrying out feasibility studies after chairing DDWP meetings.
A circular issued by the Planning Division on Aug 31 stated that it was “revisiting procedures for approval and financing development projects to streamline activities by adding more efficiency and clarity relating to development initiatives in the country.”
The circular stated that the Department Development Working Party (DDWP) be abolished and all federally-funded projects be submitted to the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), including projects costing less than or Rs60 million.
The CDWP was an inter-ministerial forum responsible for approving, executing and monitoring development projects that cost more than Rs60 million but less than Rs1,000 million.
Projects costing more than Rs1,000 million are then approved by the Ecnec which is chaired by the finance minister.
A spokesperson for the Planning Division, Ishfaqullah Khan, was not surprised with the response from ministries, but explained that the government was revisiting the procedure for approval and financing of development projects for better management of resources.
Secretary, Ministry of National Regulation Services Division, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, proposed strengthening of the DDWP rather than abolishing it.
The DDWP, he said, was an old mechanism of undertaking small-scale projects. The CDWP meets seldom and it would not be practicable to call a meeting every month or in three months.
An additional secretary believed that the planning division had neither capacity, nor expertise to execute hundreds of small-scale projects.
“It would cause delays. Even if a project is approved by the CDWP, it will eventually come back to the development wing for recruitment, procurement and execution,” the official said, seeing no sense in abolishing the DDWP.
Out of the 1,000 plus projects currently being undertaken under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), more than 300 projects were of approved by the Department Development Working Party (DDWP) forum.
The circular pointed out that projects were not undertaken on scheduled dates under the present mechanism and it caused delays and cost over-runs.
At present no policy for purchase of cars exists and there was no mechanism to certify detailed item-wise approved costs.
Under the proposed mechanism of the planning division, if projects do not start functioning within two years of their approval, or much progress is not achieved, new PC-1 would be required.
Besides disallowing purchase of cars of any type in development projects, the proposed mechanism said that the summary of the approved cost be signed by an authorised officer of the Planning Division and issued along with authorisation for issuance of administration approval.
The new proposal clearly stated that all consultancy fee / departmental charges / contingency charges be standardised that otherwise varied from project to project.
“And it is to avoid ministries executing unnecessary projects and ensure transparency and responsibility,” said Ishfaqullah Khan.
Former Deputy Chairman of Planning Division, Sardar Assef Ali, saw abolition of the DDWP forum a bad move which, he believed, actually needed to strengthened.