PUNJAB PUNCH: Punjab’s bureaucracy violates austerity drive, uses transport funds recklessly

When the Punjab government launched its austerity drive, it also banned government-funded workshops and seminars in five-star hotels, and purchase of new vehicles.
The decision by the government was aimed at curbing unnecessary expenditures and signaling the bureaucracy to avoid unnecessary expenditures.
Sources in the Punjab Civil Secretariat believe that since the government is new and does not understand bureaucratic maneuvers, the bureaucracy is continuously violating the government’s austerity drive by using its funds and property recklessly under one guise or another.
They revealed that the government has never checked the proper use of old vehicles after banning the purchase of new cars. “Old vehicles are also the government’s property, as these were purchased with public money. But the government has not formed any authority yet to stop misuse of the vehicles,” they said.
According to documents available with Pakistan Today, the Punjab Services and General Administration Department’s (S&GAD) transportation wing has allocated 18 official vehicles for protocol purposes, besides using these for general duties.
These vehicles are: three Toyota Land Cruisers, two Toyota Fortuners, five Toyota Corollas, two Toyota Hilux Double Cabins, one BMW Jeep, one Suzuki Khyber, two Honda City and one Suzuki Cultus. The engine power of these vehicles ranges from 1,000cc to 5,000cc.
As the vehicles are expensive, their maintenance expenses are around Rs3 million a month.
Talking about misuse of vehicles, sources said that if a third-party agency audits these vehicles, it will be revealed that the S&GAD officers often use the vehicles to pick and drop their kids from school and take their family members to different malls for shopping.
“There is no proper record regarding the expenditure and details of these vehicles,” they added.
According to the rules of transport wing, any section officer can be given an official vehicle subject to availability in the department. Officers of scale 18 to 22 are entitled to official vehicles and the government is responsible for expenses of petrol, repair and maintenance up to a certain limit.
However, the personal use of vehicles allocated for protocol is a wrong act, as these vehicles are not for officers but for VVIPs.
According to the S&GAD, its transport wing provides official vehicles to the members of provincial cabinet and officers of the department along with drivers and petrol charges as per their entitlement, besides allocating vehicles to protocol duties of dignitaries.
When asked about the budget allocation for petrol, repair and maintenance of the vehicles of protocol, the department refused to reply by stating that, “It is not necessary to disclose the details of expenditures.”
Similarly, when asked about the details of protocol duties from January 1, 2019 to till date, the department again refused to provide the details.

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Shahab Omer
The writer is a member of the staff and can be reached on [email protected]

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