LAHORE - The Punjab government has stopped payments for maintenance of vehicles being used by Section Officers on the plea that they are not entitled to have official cars. On the other hand, funds for the repair of bullet-proof vehicles for the VVIPs are being regularly released through supplementary grants, it is learnt. However, an officer of the S&GAD confirmed that the maintenance of vehicles was banned for the Section Officers (SOs) serving in the Civil Secretariat, which is the provincial government headquarters. He, however, rejected the officers’ claim that their maintenance allowance was stopped just to spare funds for the vehicles being used by the VVIPs. He said that under the rules, no SO was allowed to use official car but with the permission of the administrative secretary. Officers working in the Civil Secretariat, on condition of anonymity, said that the government violated its own austerity policy announced in August last year that read ‘the departments shall take all possible steps to remain within the budgetary allocations to minimise the incidences of supplementary grants’. The same austerity policy imposed ban on furnishing of houses for ministers and officers. But what happened on the ground was quite contrary to the policy, the officers said. They said that the government got the grants approved after permission from the Chief Minister’s office not only for vehicles being used by high-ups but also for Punjab government-owned chopper to ferry the CM and the governor in the province. They said that if the rules did not allow allocation of official vehicles for the SOs, why the government earlier violated the same rule and allocated vehicles to them. They said that the Section Officers, almost all from the S&GAD, used official vehicles to execute official business. They said that majority of the officers from other departments such as Food, Agriculture, Industries and Livestock had no official vehicles.“If the rules did not allow allocation of official vehicles to the SOs, the government should withdraw the facility instead of disallowing maintenance of vehicles,” an officer said. He said that without proper repairs, the vehicles would reduce to rubble and the government would have to purchase new vehicles spending public exchequer and violating the austerity policy once again. He said that instead of putting the vehicles into the litter pit, the government should allow repairs of the public-owned cars. “If necessary the government should ban lavish expenditure on VVIPs cars’ repairing,” he said. The need, the officers said, was to curb misuse of vehicles by taking corrective measures.They said that the Punjab government has issued supplementary grants of Rs 20 million and Rs 12 million for the fuel of the Chief Minister’s helicopter. Moreover, reportedly, the Finance Department had a couple of days back okayed a supplementary grant to the tune of Rs 6.2 million for the Governor House for transportation etc. Likewise, grants of Rs 10 million and then Rs 9.1 million were approved for the Chief Minister’s Secretariat under the transportation head. Rs 5.3 million were released for Mercedes S-600, Rs 1.2 million for BMW-15 and Rs 3.8 million for Mercedes S-500. All the vehicles are being used for VVIP duty at the CM Secretariat.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 21-Apr-2014 here.