ISLAMABAD (PPI) - Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Pakistan (CPDI-Pakistan) has expressed its deep concern that rate of utilisation of development budget allocated for the education sector remains very low. This is evident from an analysis carried out by CPDI, which shows that the Education Division of the Federal Government has been able to utilise only 35 per cent of the total original allocation in the first nine months of the current financial year 2007-08. This analysis has bee carried out under the Budget Watch Program of CPDI, says a press release issued here Sunday. For the financial year 2007-08, the federal government allocated Rs 6,509 million in the annual budget for development projects to be implemented by the Education Division. However, this allocation was revised down-ward to Rs 5,984 millions during the 2nd quarter review by the Ministry in January 2008, it said. It said by the end of March 2008, the total utilisation of development allocations in the education sector was Rs 2,300 millions, which amounted to 35 per cent of the original allocation and 38 per cent of the revised allocation. Total amount released in 9 months was 3742 millions, which means that 61 per cent of released amount was utilised by the end of March 2008. It said that the Education Division had also badly failed in 2006-07 in fully and efficiently utilising the annual development budget. Utilisation of development budget under the Education Division in 2006-07 was only 20 per cent of the original allocation by the end of 3rd quarter in March 2007 and 33 per cent by the end of the whole financial year in June 2007. The statement said that the performance has improved this year, as the utilisation rate has improved from 20 per cent last year to 35 per cent this year during the first nine months. However, more effective measures need to be taken on urgent basis to further improve the performance to meet the challenges in the education sector. It said the low utilisation of development budget for the education sector is due to a variety of reasons. These include, for instance, the late releases by the Ministry of Finance, inter-departmental differences and non-availability of technical staff. , failures in appointing full-time project directors, delayed consultant reports, late issuance of work orders and late submission of reports or requests for release of funds by the related implementing organisations. It has also been noted that, in many cases, budgetary allocations are made without first completing the approval process, which results in delayed implementation work. It is a matter of serious concern that the Education Division and other related ministries or departments have been unable to get these problems fixed over the past several years, it said. If further said that delays are particularly noticed in the implementation of those development projects, which are implemented by the provincial governments but through funding from the federal government. It is partly because of significant delays in the transfer of funds from the Federal Government to the provincial governments and then to the relevant provincial ministry onward to the relevant district and/or the project, it said. It said it seems that the concerned authorities have failed to address these problems and, as a result, the long delays in transfer of funds continue to undermine the efficient implementation of development projects. For the Financial Year 2007-08, the government had committed funds for 104 development schemes under the Education Division. However, not even one rupee could be spent on 39 schemes out of these 104 by the end of March 2008. The schemes with zero utilisation included, among others, establishment of colleges in Shangla, Tando Bagho, Islamabad and Turbat, Education for All (ESR) including program of missing facilities, pilot project on education for all in an inclusive setting (Norwegian Govt.), and capacity building of teachers training institutions. It said the PSDP for the year 2007-08 included an allocation of Rs 772 millions for 24 cadet colleges. However, the Ministry has not been able to spend any amount on 13 of these cadet college schemes by the end of March 2008. It may be noted that the cost of establishing one cadet college is, on an average, more than 200 million, which is many times higher than the ordinary educational institutions that serve the children of common people. However, the government continues to approves new cadet college projects each year on the presumption that establishing cadet colleges is the best way to deliver quality education in under-developed districts. This approach is, however, questionable, as cadet colleges involve high costs and are not generally accessible by common people. Hence, there is a need to reconsider this policy in order to determine whether the resources allocated to cadet colleges can be more efficiently utilised for achieving the objective of 'education for all', it said. It said the projects that have shown very poor progress during the first 9 months include, among others, National Education Assessment System, Debt SWAP II for Education in NWFP, Madrassah Reforms Project, Revamping of Science Education (ESR), Education for All (ESR) including program of missing facilities, Punjab School Libraries Project (German Debt Swap -1) and National School Nutrition Program. The utilisation rate in many such projects is less than 20 per cent in the first nine months. The government, it said especially the Education Division, must take immediate steps to improve the pace of implementation of development projects. It must fix problems that result in extremely low utilisation of funds, besides ensuring that development priorities take into account the considerations of efficiency, access, equity and fairness. Most importantly, the Education Division must ensure transparency in its planning and implementation phases relating to development work. It must proactively share information about the progress on development projects as well as about the utilisation of allocated funds after each quarter, the statement said. Maximum transparency in this regard can help in better monitoring, greater accountability, timely rectification of related problems and improved performance of the Education Division or other related agencies, it added.