LAHORE - Despite tall claims of the Punjab government to resolve energy issues, the top slot of Energy department - Additional Chief Secretary - is lying vacant for many months.

The seat was created to tackle red-tapism in the public sector and to speed up funds utilisation to generate more electricity.

Moreover, the second most important slot of the government on revenue side - Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) - could not be filled in since the former officer Capt (r) Zahid Saeed was elevated as Punjab Chief Secretary.

The third important slot of treasuries - Finance Secretary - is also empty as the former one Shoukat Ali was transferred and he joined the mandatory course for promotion to next grade.

Likewise, the Punjab government spokesman - Information Secretary - is also vacant since Momin Ali Agha was transferred and posted as Commissioner Faisalabad Division.

Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) Energy, a newly created seat owing to escalating energy crisis, is also being run on additional charge basis as the former officer was posted as Chairman Planning and Development Board. The position was created to accelerate the energy projects for the first time in the history of Punjab.

The new top office for energy purposes then showed government’s seriousness towards the most pressing issue of energy for which the government had fixed approx 20 billion rupees, not to mention the foreign investment by Asian Development Bank (ADB) that wants to enhance cooperation in energy sector and to set up solar energy projects under public-private partnership in Punjab.

All the offices are being run on stop-gap arrangement basis. Member Colonies of the BOR Jawad Rafique Malik was given additional charge of the top board slot despite his own hectic job as a member. “A full-time revenue head was need of the time,” said a senior officer of the board of revenue. He added that the government could not defend its position on many issues since a permanent SMBR was missing.

SMBR, a grade 22 slot, is the custodian of all the revenue matters besides chief judge of all the appeals against the divisional revenue officers and BOR members. He holds all the keys of the allotment, lease, transfer and sale deeds of the state-owned lands. The computerisation of state lands also falls under his ambit. He also supervises disaster management issues.

Though, DGPR was running affairs of the Information department, Chairman P&D of the energy department, the Special Secretary was assigned additional charge of the finance department. The lack of full-time ACS Energy, SMBR and Finance Secretary has been creating problems in Revenue, energy and treasury matters.

While the energy issue is still acute, the computerisation of lands is also underway. The search of lands for government employees housing societies could not be completed despite the lapse of a decade of the public sector officials applied for plots.

On top of these things, SMBR is overall in charge of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). The floods are likely and top office to look after them was on an additional charge basis.

Interestingly, Additional Chief Secretary Shumail Ahmed Khawaja had taken notice of the unnecessary delay in the disposal of over 20000 cases pending with the Anti-Corruption Establishment and many more in other departments. He also directed formulating an effective mechanism of accountability and evolving amendments in the existing rules and regulations for this purpose.

Sources told The Nation that the additional chief secretary also directed the preparation of draft law for amendments in existing rules and regulations of the ACE so that investigation officers could be bound to complete inquiries on time. He had also directed to clear pending cases and inquiries against other officers.

When contacted, a senior officer of the S&GAD said that the CM office had not even invited proposals for any of the energy, finance or revenue department top slots.