The Auditor General has detected corruption and financial irregularities amounting to Rs 5.28 billion at the Punjab Education Department and directed the authorities concerned to take punitive action against the responsible officers. This comes as no surprise considering the sad state of public education in the region.

According to the audit report of 2014 there have been massive financial irregularity in the Education Ministry of Punjab. Purchased items worth Rs363 million have been wasted at the Lahore Engineering University while nine educational institutions have made bad investments of Rs 3.78 billion at different levels. Moreover, nine government colleges have wasted Rs 269 billion in the name of maintenance of buildings and other repair work.

The report further says that various colleges have made transaction of Rs212 million in bank accounts of their own choice while different colleges have spent Rs117 million on the purchase of unnecessary items. “Purchase(s) of Rs27 million was made without the permission of purchasing committee while Rs20 million were distributed among undeserving people in the name of cash award,” the document read.

Moreover, Rs7 million have been wasted in the name of scholarship and various colleges have given Rs100 million to employees in advance, while students have not been given Rs20 million in allocated scholarships. Such vast sums of money were simply wasted or pocketed and there was no accountability of where it was going.

The Secretary of the Provincial Higher Education Commission expressed complete ignorance about this mega-corruption fiasco. Under his nose the Education Department has become the most lucrative departments in the government, having one of the highest numbers of employees, teachers and the greatest neglect in transparency.

Recently, a new summary of Rs4 billion has been prepared to seek funds to “overhaul the dormant system”, in rural and urban schools of Islamabad. But there really isn’t any point considering past performance. Big budgets are spent each year on the construction of schools staffed with ghost teachers, and upon the salaries of such ghost teachers. Hiring, transfers and postings at voluminous levels bring windfalls for those at the helm of this department.

The government officials themselves are one of the sources and causes of this parasitic and dysfunctional system. The top echelons in the education branch barely spare time to fix the faults, except for directors, deputy directors and the director-general ferrying between to sort out bundle of official files that are only related to promotions, perks and privileges.