LAHORE - After approval of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the government has allowed the Punjab Irrigation & Drainage Authority (PIDA) to utilise the 50 percent PIDA share of water cess (abiana) to discharge its functions thereby giving more financial autonomy to the authority.

The Punjab Finance Department has written a letter to the Irrigation department to get the seats approved from the authority if it wanted Statement for New Expenditure (SNE) for the year 2014-15 approved. Last year, the finance department had approved the block allocation to the tune of Rs150 million without sticking to such formalities. The Planning & Development Board has already nodded for the posts for the authority.

The finance department (FD), on February 4, 2014, responding to a query, had observed that Section 4 of the act provides that affairs of PIDA shall be carried out by the BoM (board of management) under the control and guidance of the authority. In para 88, the FD had written, “The administrative department may be advised to place the draft of Pida Service Rules at a meeting of the BoM for deliberation before its approval by the Authority and subsequently by the government.”

Now, the BoM will have to convene the authority meeting to get the vacancies as well as the service rules (SRs) approved. The Regulation Wing of S&GAD had already advised that the autonomous bodies should themselves frame the SRs. As per the PIDA Act 1997; the authority may collect and spend the collected money from the farmers.

The farmer organisations working under PIDA collect farmers’ dues in their respective areas in shape of abiana whose 50 percent amount is deposited in government kitty through PIDA while the rest of the amount is used for meeting FOs expenses. Now, the Punjab government has allowed the PIDA to use this 50 percent amount to meet its own expenses as well as operational and management costs of canal and drainage networks under its control.

Earlier, PIDA BoM, violating the law and the CM directive, had forwarded the summary to the S&GAD, seeking approval to the service rules for the employees without getting them approved from the authority. As now the CM has clearly ordered in this regard, so the authority officials call it a positive step towards its autonomy.

Sources said that PIDA secretary and its BoM would have to convene the meetings of the Service Rules Sub-Committee, comprising three MPAs, Mian Muhammad Rafique, Arshad Khan Lodhi and Samina Noor Hayat, as well as the 47th meeting of the authority to get the SRs and the posts approved. Earlier, not a single meeting of the PIDA’s Service Rules (SRC) Sub-committee had been convened.

The meeting of the SRC (S&GAD) on November 12, 2013 had opined that the irrigation department should submit a revised comparative draft of the proposed rules titled “Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority Rules 2013” along with relevant documents to enable the Regulation Wing, S&GAD, to place the matter before the Service Rules Committee (SRC) for consideration.”

Lauding the current move of the chief minister, PIDA contract staffers have expressed the hope that the CM would take cognisance of their apprehensions as well as violations of the rules by the BoM. The contract employees further said that the autonomy to the authority in financial as well as administrative affairs would help improve service delivery.

They said that if PIDA secretary, who also holds additional charge of general manager, failed to convene the Service Rules sub-committee or the PIDA meeting to get the SRs and the seats approved, the CM should take notice of it.