LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Friday completed the general discussion on Rs 82 billion supplementary budget of the financial year 2012-13, amid a strong criticism against the last government from the opposition which termed it extravagant spending.

The House will take up on Saturday (today) cut motions and demands for grant to end up at voting on the budget. The second session was presided over by the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan.

The opposition at the Punjab Assembly on Friday exposed the misuse of supplementary budget by PML-N government during the last financial year.

Starting discussion, Opposition Leader Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed criticised the government for misuse of public money and termed it against the past traditions. He said the government allocated Rs 40.8 million for installing CCTV cameras but none was seen at any polling station on the polling day. He said it was really awful that the government misused the money, but the house was being forced to approve it. Regarding the Metro Bus Service (MBS) project, he said the government allocated Rs 40.8m and more Rs one million to the MBS authorities.

Lashing out at the worst law and order situation in the province, the opposition leader said Rs 3.4 billion were allocated to the police, but they badly failed to protect lives and properties of the citizens. He said Rs 780,000 were spent on the security of Caretaker CM Najam Sethi, besides spending millions of rupees on various legislators before the polls, which was tantamount to a pre-poll rigging. In addition, Rs 3.7 million were spent on the construction of a special house in Karachi for the Punjab chief minister.

Rasheed further said Rs 165 million were distributed among 312 people. He raised a question whether these 312 people were the only poor persons in the whole province and what criterion was followed to dole out this money to them. Rasheed said the supplementary budget proved the government’s failure as instead of adopting simplicity it exceeded its limits and wasted public money.

Jamaat-e-Islami MPA Dr Waseem Akhtar asked the finance minister to present a mid-session report on the expenditures of the government instead of getting more money through a supplementary budget. PML-Q leader Waqas Hassan Moakkil, PTI’s Shahabuddin Khan and Faqeer Hussain Dogar opposed the approval of the supplementary budget.

PML-Q’s Samina Khawar Hayat said the previous government had announced to adopt simplicity, but it was seen nowhere. The chief minister abolished the discretionary funds of the MPs, but they continued in the form of the supplementary budget.

Jameel Hassan Khan, Ahmad Khan Bachar, Sadiq Khan and Saadia Sohail Rana also opposed the supplementary fund. Saadia said extra amount was allocated for police, but there was no peace anywhere in the province. She said grandson of poet Habib Jalib was arrested by the police; similarly, the son of a woman from the treasury benches was also kidnapped, but the police registered cases against them instead of taking action against the culprits.

On the other hand, Ayesha Javed and Mian Muhammad Rafiq spoke in favour of the government for introducing a comprehensive budget for the province.

Mian Aslam Iqbal of PTI, criticising the supplementary budget, found a number of flaws in its use. He criticised the bureaucrats and the chief minister on whose ‘whims and choice’ the budgetary spending crossed the main budget. He said it was a highly painful aspect of the matter that the elected members were being forced to sanction the money spent on comforts and luxuries of officers.

Aslam wanted the members to be more vigilant about approving the supplementary budget for it was the public money and they were its custodians.

Mian Aslam pointed out that the last government could use only 55 per cent of the provincial budget, so it appears ridiculous that more money is demanded over and above the main budget. He said the constitution did not bar the standing committees of the House from summoning the officers who demand the money which will ultimately become part of the supplementary budget. He also opposed the practice of getting approval of supplementary budget after spending has been made, but before using the money under that head.

Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman, countering the opposition members’ speeches, said supplementary grant is required in emergency situations and the total volume of the budget under that head can be 10 per cent of the total running finances. Explaining the utilisation of Rs 82 billion last year, he said Rs 38 billion were on the purchase of wheat which benefited farmers and encouraged growth of these commodities, and Rs 28 billion was technical supplementary grant. Hence the actual volume of the supplementary grant is about Rs 17 billion which is far below the amount allowed under the law. Of this amount, he said, Rs 10 billion were spent on the education sector and the rest on health and law and order, so there was no question of extravagancy about that spending.

The minister also justified establishment of Danish schools and honorariums given to the workers as reward for completing the Metro bus project in record 11 months.