LAHORE - The higher education department is facing shortage of staff after bifurcation of the department. The post of secretary higher education has been lying vacant for most of time as the Punjab government has been unable to find any suitable officer for the said office. Downward slide of the higher education department started in 2008-09 when the new government took over the province. During this period, from May 2008 till now, six secretaries have been showed the door while the seventh secretary at present is serving the department as an additional charge. The seven secretaries that assumed the office in the department include Arifa Saboohi, Javed Aslam (additional charge), Rai Ijaz Ali Zaigham, Muhammad Ayub Qazi (additional charge), Azhar Hussain Shamim, Umur Rasul (additional charge), Ahad Cheema (additional charge todate). In the current fiscal year, Azhar Hussain Shamim was lucky to survive for nine months. During his tenure 78 on-going and 38 new schemes were initiated. Due to resource constraint, the development budget was revised downwards by P&D Department from Rs 9100 million to Rs 7333.3 million in 2008-09. Inspite of repeated requests by the secretaries higher education, the additional chief secretary Punjab failed to fill in five vacant posts of section officers and nine assistants, source in the education department confided to The Nation on Monday. In June 2008, the education department was bifurcated into higher and school education departments without any logic and amendment in the Rules of Business 1974. One part of the department, the higher education department, was excluded from the devolution system and since 2006 it is being administered by the provincial government. The divisional and provincial offices lying dormant since 2002 had to be reactivated and faced budgetary and serious manpower constraints to handle the workload for the newly set-up higher education department, the sources said. Unfortunately, the bifurcation favoured the school education department, as all the project management units (PMUs), staff and computer personnel shifted there. Only the deputy secretary (planning) - a school teacher - was posted in the higher education department and he single-handedly managed planning, implementation and monitoring functions for ADP of Rs 9,100 million with just two section officers (also school teachers) and one assistant. The sources claimed that the 'low utilisation of ADP development led to the transfer of the former secretary Azhar Hussain Shamim. In 2000-01, the ADP of the education department was about Rs700 million that increased to Rs 4,500 million in 2006-07. Surprisingly, the P&D Department doubled it to Rs 9,100 million in 2008-09. The reason behind this giant increase was never shared with the department nor did the department ask about such funding. Two massive block allocations under Punjab education section reform projects (PERSP-ll) and accelerated programme for college education (APCE) worth Rs 2,500 million and Rs 3,000 million respectively were also included. The two block allocations had no schemes mentioned that had to be discovered through CMs directives or MNAs/MPAs requests. Such schemes were to be approved by the concerned quarters in record time to utilise the funds.