2,000 BISP workers regularised
ISLAMABAD, Feb 8: Largely dependent on international donors and grants, the federal government has regularised the services of over 2,000 employees working with the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
The main objective behind establishment of BISP was to provide social security cover to families living under the poverty line.
BISP was launched in October 2008 with an initial allocation of Rs34 billion. The funding was increased to Rs70 billion by the government during 2011-12 to cover almost 5.5 million families across the country.
“World Bank has given a loan amounting to five per cent of the total project cost of the BISP,” an official told Dawn.
He said the British Department for International Development (DFID) had given a grant of £279 million to the government for different BISP projects.
A sum of £9 million was also provided to the government for BISP through a World Bank loan taken by the DFID.
An official in the establishment division said it was quite disturbing that all the employees given regular status in BISP were from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtukhwa.
“Balochistan and Sindh have completely been ignored by the federal government since services of BISP employees belong to these two provinces were not regularised,” said the official. He added that all these employees were hired by the PPP-led government during the last over four years.
A representative of an international donor agency on the condition of anonymity said: “The officials should not have been regularised because it would have an impact on the smooth working of the BISP projects.”
The BISP is running several projects in the domains of poverty reduction, education and healthcare besides developing technical expertise of people living under the poverty line in the country.
The BISP website also indicated that the enrolled families were paid cash assistance up to Rs1,000 per month on a quarterly basis apart from other benefits like long-term interest-free returnable financial assistance, vocational and technical training, health and life insurance coverage.
When contacted for comment, economist Qaiser Bengali, who was part of designing the BISP in 2008, said: “In principle, it is wrong to hire employees on a permanent basis in social security projects like BISP which are run on donor money. Pakistan has a history of at least 30 years in which temporary or project employees are absorbed on a regular basis,” he added.
Mr Bengali said the government would have to pay for the financial burden in terms of salaries to the employees even after the closure of the projects.
However, after a while, Mr Bengali called Dawn and said: “BISP was established through a parliamentary act, so it is supposed to have a secretariat and employees can be hired on a permanent basis for running the organisation.”
When a set of questions were emailed to the BISP secretariat, Federal Secretary Benazir Income Support Programme Mohammad Sher Khan replied that there were about 1,700 contractual employees in the organisation.
He said the process to regularise the services of these employees commenced in June last year when the BISP board promulgated the Employees’ Service Regulations 2012.
He said the consent of the contractual employees was being sought to finalise the regularisation process which can take a few more months.
“After promulgation of the Benazir Income Support Programme Employees Service Regulations, it has become a legal necessity to complete the regularisation process,” he added.
The secretary said not only from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, consents were invited from contractual employees from all the provinces, including Islamabad.
He said as the contractual employees were already serving in BISP for many years against sanctioned posts and drawing salary, their regularisation would not be an additional burden on the national exchequer.
“In addition, it must be understood that those who are employed by BISP are working for the betterment of the 22 per cent population of Pakistan and they will continue to serve them in the future.”