The Punjab government is preparing for the coming election, though its preparations consist of governmental actions meant to make the voter grateful. On Thursday, the Punjab government, through the concerned departments, made an agreement with Transparency International to review the rules and regulations, and the transparency of its main projects. On Friday, it regularized the services of contract employees in Grades 1 to 16. The agreement with Transparency opened not just the main projects of the Punjab government, with which it wishes to approach the voter, but also projects involving Rs 36 billion, to accountability. It also, by regularizing the employees, took a step which met a longstanding demand, but also went some distance towards making a lot of people happy with the government just before it went back to the electorate for a renewal of its mandate. It is to be noted that neither action has been forbidden by the Election Commission of Pakistan as pre-election rigging.

The Punjab government has also introduced the concept of presenting oneself for accountability, rather than waiting for it to come through a government accountability agency. It should be noted that two of the schemes, the Metro Bus System and the laptop scheme have been around long enough for objections to have been raised, with claims of financial impropriety being raised. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif referred to this at the signing ceremony when he said that the Transparency report would tell whether or not claims that the Metro Bus System project had actually cost Rs 80 billion or Rs 90 billion were true. The step would provide an example of public-sector projects being examined financially by a private-sector organization, instead of taking refuge behind a wall of secrecy. As the Transparency report is to be made before the election, thus making the PML-N able to use these projects as examples of its performance in the coming election.

It is also to be assumed that the Punjab government is satisfied about financial propriety having been observed in the projects which are to the subject to inspection. It should also have adjudged those confirmed as employees as meeting the requirements of their job, and that the job itself was necessary. Another aspect of care with the taxpayers’ money is also in providing employment. The principle should be accepted that government funds are not a trough at which voters are to be fed.