LAHORE: In order to ensure effective use of public resources, the Punjab government has notified measures for adopting financial discipline and to cut down extravagant spending.

Though, the order replicates the previous one dated September 14, 2017, but excludes a ban on recruitment against the vacant slots.

The Finance Department (FD) on September 14 notified the strict austerity measures to be taken by all the public sector bodies, autonomous entities, corporations. It had repealed the instructions issued in September 2016.

In the government order dated September 14, 2017, the Finance department had imposed a complete ban on recruitments against vacant posts except with the approval of the CM but in the fresh notification, this condition was slashed.

However, the ban on all types of up-gradation of posts remained intact except the powers delegated under Delegation of Financial Powers Rules 2016.

The austerity measures will be applicable to the local governments also.

The provincial government decided to observe utmost austerity in the usage of public money through financial management, observance of financial discipline, judicious reduction of the expenditures without compromising the essential and core organizational functions. Expenditures shall be required to be realigned with the organizational goals to make them target-based and cost-efficient. Wastage of resource and leakage of funds need to be curbed strictly.

The administrative departments shall remain within the budgetary allocations to minimize the incidents of supplementary grants. Further, the request for such grants if unavoidable shall require the approval of the Provincial Cabinet Committee on Finance & Development.

Parking of funds provided by the Provincial Government from its budgetary allocation in the commercial bank accounts of companies, authorities, autonomous bodies shall not be allowed. Further, Finance Department will release funds to such entities in relevant heads or through normal release mode. These funds will be further transferred from SDAs into commercial bank accounts of such entities as per cash flow requirements of entities to avoid un-necessary parking of funds.

There shall be a complete ban on the foreign visits of Ministers, MPAs and government officers through government funding. The cases for foreign visits shall be placed in the austerity committee for its recommendations and approval of the Chief Minister through the summary. The provincial ministers and civil servants while undertaking official tours shall travel in economy class on domestic flights. For International visits, the ministers shall travel in one step below their entitlement.

 There shall be a complete ban on treatment abroad at government expense, on the procurement of locally assembled and imported new vehicles out of current and development budgets. Under unavoidable circumstances, the vehicles shall be procured with the prior concurrence of austerity committee and subsequent approval of CM through the summary. Ambulances and all operational vehicles for hospitals except cars will be allowed. Moreover, tractors, dumpers, water boozers, fire fighting vehicles, flood relief pieces of equipment, vehicles and solid waste management equipment.

Purchase of generators and air conditioners shall not be allowed to be procured except with the prior concurrence of the austerity committee. However, the generators required for sewage disposal & water supply schemes, tube wells will be exempted from the ban. The earlier withdrawal of furnishing grants allowed to the provincial ministers for the furnishing of their houses and discretionary grants shall remain withdrawn during the current financial year 2017-18 as well.

The contingent paid staff can be hired, only in extremely emergent cases, according to powers specified in Delegation of Financial Powers, 2016. However, the departments shall remain within the budgetary allocations for the purpose and no re-appropriation shall be allowed and no additional funds as supplementary grant shall be provided for this head during 2017-18.

Departmental and Special Departmental Accounts Committee meetings shall be held regularly under intimation to the Finance Department so as to ensure internal audit of the respective departmental organization.

The Specialized Health Care & Medical Education Department, Primary & Secondary Health Department, School Department, Higher Education Department, Literacy and Non Formal Education Department and Special Education Department, Infrastructure Development Authority Punjab (lDAP), Punjab Food Authority and Punjab Agriculture, Food & Drug Authority (PAFDA) will be exempted from austerity measures for the 2017-18. The purchase of cars in these departments will only be made after approval from the austerity committee and the chief minister.

A former Finance secretary on anonymity said that supplementary grants had been sanctioned despite the government instructions to observe austerity measures strictly. He said that the authorities themselves demand and violate the set stage for the drive. He said that the FD had to cut funds to settle the issues of supplementary grants.

He said that the Punjab government had requested Rs10m through the supplementary grant for aviation flight during the financial year 2015-16 as the existing chopper kitty was not enough to clear present liabilities and to meet tentative expenditures. Moreover, the FD had in July 2016 released Rs 275 million for the repair and maintenance of the Punjab government’s MI-17 helicopter.