WHILE the $1.5 billion yearly US assistance package is yet to get through the Congress, a new issue related to the aid has been added to those already agitating the people's mind. Washington insists on disbursing a large portion of the assistance through NGOs. Prime Minister Gilani's argument against using the NGO conduit is that it involves out of proportion administrative expenses to the extent of 35 to 40 percent. Others who object to the NGOs' involvement maintain that as US agencies would pick and choose the NGOs for the purpose, this would provide undue leverage to Washington on civil society. While talking to Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, the Prime Minister has recommended that Washington consider Benazir Income Support Programme, Higher Education Commission and the existing health and education bodies for assistance. The argument generally given in favour of diverting aid through the NGOs is that there is rampant corruption in government departments. The perception is in fact shared by most Pakistanis and is supported by the scandals involving government departments unearthed by successive Public Accounts Committees, besides those reported by media. The recent report by Transparency International indicates that the level of corruption has in fact risen under the PPP led government. It is also maintained that that the NGOs have contacts at the grassroots and the aid utilised through them would be diverted to facilities really needed by the people rather than on projects envisaged and implemented by planners in remote Islamabad. Other complaints regarding the utilisation of assistance concern the extra large expenses being incurred on its oversight. Nearly $1 billion out of $2.4 billion war supplemental package have already been carved out for expenses on its administration. The amount will mostly be spent on the construction and fortification of the US embassy in Islamabad which would house the additional American staff needed, according to US officials, to build additional capacity to disburse money and exercise oversight. This would turn it into a super embassy rivalling only the American mission in Baghdad. In the final analysis the beggars cannot be choosers. In the past also a portion of the aid has gone back to the US in lieu of the 'buy America' policy and as payments to US advisers and functionaries. What is more the aid has never been without strings. What is needed on the part of the government is to learn to live within its means and get rid of its reliance of foreign aid. It will otherwise continue to be dictated on domestic and foreign policies.