People’s participation in budget making

THE key to practical democracy is the active involvement of people in every aspect of governance and hence budget as an imperative instrument of governance is no exception.

However, the budget-making process in Pakistan has been largely opaque. People have little opportunity to participate in the process that affects the quality of their lives directly. No major steps have been taken by any government or political party to make this process participatory or people-oriented.

A study was conducted by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), an Islamabad-based think-tank, to monitor the process of budget-making at the district level.

Its main aim was to collect research-based evidence whether district governments of Punjab are following the timelines and required procedures for the budget-making process.

The District Government Budget Rules 2003 lay a clear outline for different timelines and procedures to follow, including a clear requirement for people’s participation in the budget-making process.

The survey shows disturbing trends in budget formulation. Of 36 districts of Punjab, only two issued budget call letters before the stipulated date, i.e., September.

There was a very low level of people’s participation in the budget-making process. Citizens are required to be consulted before the issuance of budget call letters, and during the preparation of budget proposals.

The districts governments have a poor show in this area. Only three districts in Punjab consulted civil society representatives and citizens at some stage of the budget-making process.

The budget branches of the EDO/F are in depleted conditions. There is a vast gap between sanctioned and posted strength, and a number of posts are lying vacant.

Overall, of 489 sanctioned posts in the budget branch, only 219 were filled. There were only two districts where the budget branches were working to full strength.

Many of the procedures, as given in District Budget Rules 2003, were either bypassed or ignored. For example, in five districts, estimates of expenditures and receipts were prepared and submitted, though budget call letters were not issued.

Where it was issued, the budget call letter was not accompanied by some important components as mentioned in the budget rules.

By the time of survey, April 2013, 26 districts had issued budget call letters. Of these 26 districts, vision/mission of the district government was mentioned only in six budget call letters and only 19 budget call letters were sent with detailed budget calendar.

An important yardstick for information dissemination would have been a good interactive and updated website. The survey results show that only six districts have functional websites.

Local government elections are the only solution available to make the executive branch accountable and to increase people’s participation in the budget-making process.

The situation at district level, however, is not pleasing at all. Several steps of the budget-making process are bypassed, public participation is next to zero, there is no research staff posted in budget branches, district governments do not generally respect budget procedures and timelines.

The provinces have delayed the local government elections on different pretexts. This wait should end now. The top leadership of the PML-N is on record for holding local government elections within six months of the general elections.

The countdown has started.

ZAHRA LODHI Project Manager Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives


Dawn News Link

People’s education assembly held

A District Level People’s Education Assembly 2013 was held here on Saturday. Political representatives, district representatives, academia, educationists, teachers, civil society representatives and media were present on the occasion.
The assembly was organised by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), in collaboration of Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE). The assembly was hosted and conducted by CPDI Programme Manager Syed Kausar Abbas, whereas EDO (Education) Qazi Zahoor ul Haq, PTI MPA Asif Mahmood, PML-N MPA Tehseen Fawad and Education Planning Director Syed Saleem Raza were present on the education. Article 25 (A) of the constitution that states that the state is responsible to provide free and compulsory education for the children from 4-16, was discussed in detail in the assembly.
Syed Saleem Raza said that last year for the Rawalpindi District, Rs5 billion were allocated that were further categorised into salaried and non-salaried budget. This year Rs7 billion has been allocated for Rawalpindi District for education.
EDO education while speaking on the education said that now they are talking about the age ranging from 4 to 16 that is the eligible age for studying in school and college. “Our government is already taking education as its top priority. Government has launched consolidation scheme in which the schools near to each other would be merged together to form different classes in villages. Our government in the last two years has given a road map for improving missing facilities in the schools emphasising on presence of the teachers as well as the presence of students in the school. This year also we are working on the missing facilities and each district is sensitised in this regard. By October 31st, we would rationalise teachers, but teachers then raise hue and cry and reach MPAs, MNAs to put pressure on EDO to reverse the decision,” he said.
Tahseen Fawad while speaking on the occasionsaid that Danish Schoolsestablished by Punjab Government are compatible with Atchison College in every regard. The only criteria to get your child enrolled in this school is merit.
Arif Abbasi said that PTI government’s top priority is education. “There is a need to see that after taking the salaries of teachers of the allocated budget what is left to be spent on education. It’s astonishing to see that Rs3 billion is being spent on Danish Schools, this money could have been utilised in providing the missing facilities in existing schools at grassroots level. Gradually after strengthening the existing infrastructure they can work on building extensive institutions,” he added.
The assembly concluded with the question and answer session in which the spokespersons answered the queries.
The News Link

Following the school paisa

Let me say a few words on the state of education sector in Punjab province which houses more than half of the country’s population and hub of social and economic development. Its capital has also called “political capital” of the country reflecting significance in shaping the political landscape of the country. So, beyond no doubt, developments in this part of the country mostly affects the development trajectory overall. Education, a guaranteed constitutional right of every child in Pakistan approved under the 18th amendment has fully charged the social environment in the province.
In the last few years, the provincial government has also taken meritorious steps in transforming the education landscape of the province by pumping more physical and human resources into the system. School improvements, provision of missing facilities, consolidation of primary schools, recruitments of teachers and induction of subject specialists are major steps for improvements in school education. A question always pinches me that too much resource have been allocated and distributed to the districts for service provision but the outcomes still remain at the lowest ebb. Punjab Millennium Development Goals Report 2011 depicts the dilapidated education state clearly signalizing towards missing of most of MDGs targets including education.
A distinctive debate clearly provides food for thought for public policy analysts that public money allocated to the education sector has not fully realized. This is obvious that money does not reach out to the intended users of education facility, so the question arises where does this go? The organizations involved in budget work in Pakistan, although few in numbers have seen it as a gigantic and tedious job to find out exact expenditures incurred. However, a culture has developed in last the few years when the civil society and the media has started using budget numbers in generating debate on education and its likely outcomes. This has really opened new ways of exploring the budget realities beyond its limits. In Punjab, education sector typically represents 60% of district budget provides an ample space for civil society to peep into the system and find out possible bottlenecks hindering education expenditures. The task is to follow the school money.
Globally, advanced tools have been employed to study the flow of public resources to various government hierarchies. Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS), a tracking tool has been first implemented in Uganda, produced unprecedented results including a decline in leakages in grants to schools from 80% in 1994 to 20% in 2001. The successful model has been picked up by other countries including Peru, Zambia, India, and Nepal brought results in key social sectors including primary education. Overall, PETS remains successful in identifying the low allocations, leakages, corruption, underlying reasons of weak resource delivery to the users including bureaucratic hurdles, administrative red-tapism and political pressures.
This is a well discussed fact that the previous government has prioritized the construction of mega physical projects including Metro Bus System in Lahore, which results in major redirection of resources from social sectors. In budget analyst jargon, it is termed as leakage which is usually unearthed by employing sophisticated expenditure tracking tools. Although, no significant research has focused on this exploring exact numbers behind this huge leakage from social sectors which will definitely hamper social development in the province.
In a diagnostic study initiated by CPDI, an Islamabad based think tank made use of expenditure tracking in the education sector. The early findings reveal that schools in Punjab do not get the intended public money allocated for their development and current expenditures. The leakage is rampant in all public schools. A clear distinction mark between salary and non-salary where schools do not get enough operational funds and the worst affected are primary schools. However, elementary and secondary get minimal funds which helps operate the school daily affairs.
This compels the school administration to raise funds either from the community or charge students. This fact is also verified from a World Bank study of 79 countries including Pakistan that 97 percent of end-users are charged some form of fees for education. Informal chats with school staff also revealed that students have to pay between Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 per month and the funds, thus raised, are utilized to pay utility charges and for minor repairs. Findings also reveal that 40 students from a primary school drop out and refuse to continue education at public school. Charging students is an absolute violation of Article-25 A which guarantees free education to all school going children.
Expenditure tracking unearth violation of the constitution of Pakistan and show the inability of the provincial government on implementation of Article-25A. Punjab government should devise student friendly education policy and strategies provide an enabling environment for free education to all school going children. CSOs should also work closely with the provincial government and provide research findings for effective implementation of Article-25A.
Gulbaz Ali Khan
The author is a social accountability practitioner based at Islamabad and may be reached at
The Frontier Post

CPDI to hold forum of constituents with representatives

Rawalpindi: The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) would hold an interactive forum of constituents with elected representatives of Rawalpindi Cantonment NA-54, PP-9 & PP-10. Constituency Relations Group of NA-54 will present an issue based on charter of demands to the elected representatives.
Member National Assembly Malik Abrar Ahmad, Member Provincial Assembly Asif Mehmood and Malik Iftikhar Ahmad will attend the session.
CPDI Program Manager Syed Kausar Abbas said this while talking to newsmen on Wednesday. Kausar Abbas said that the constituency relations group of CPDI is holding an interactive session with the elected representatives of NA-54 on July 6, Saturday.
He said that Constituency Relations Group is the group of concerned volunteers working in the constituency to highlight the issues and to bridge the gap between elected representatives, public institutions and citizens. Kausar Abbas said that NA-54 constituency of Rawalpindi belongs to Rawalpindi Cantonment Board area and residents do not get access to the basic facilities in the constituency.

The News Link

Inclusion of access to information policy in police act urged

Islamabad: The civil society demanded inclusion of the Access to Information Policy in the Punjab Police Act 2013 effectively. It regretted that unfortunately it is not being implemented or practiced in the present police culture.

This was stated by Syed Kausar Abbas, programme manager of the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). He said that the Punjab government is in the process to introduce Punjab Police Act 2013, but they have ignored Access to Information Policy.

He demanded that the Punjab government should include Access to Information Policy in the Police Act 2013 which would strengthen the working environment of the police department. He said that right to information is practiced in more than 100 countries of the world and the police department should enhance the capacity of its officials to share information with the public.

He further said that this is imperative for the police reforms to give access to information to the public. Kausar Abbas said that the Inspector General of Punjab Police should form information desks along with the designated information officials in all the police stations of Punjab.
The News International

Islamabad: Civil society, facing numerous basic issues, has demanded of the new government to take immediate steps for holding local bodies elections in the country so that the problems of people could be resolved.

The demand for local bodies polls was made by Syed Kausar Abbas, a civil society activist and Program Manager of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), here on Monday.
He said that Pakistan did not have elected local government system since 2008 in all four provinces which is increasing the issues of public at the grassroots level. Kausar Abbas said that the federal and provincial government should stop the funds of all members of parliament and the development funds should be spent through the elected local government representatives in all over the country.
He further said that this was the prime responsibility of provincial governments after 18th Amendment that each province should legislate its own local government policy.
The entire province is independent after 18th Amendment but unfortunately they were failed to conduct the local government elections. He also said that by having elected local government system the problems of the people can be resolved at the grassroots level and at their door steps. He said that the government should immediately stop the development funds of all MPs and hold free, fair and transparent local government elections in all the provinces.

ISLAMABAD: As the Senate Committee’s draft bill on the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013 has come under sharp criticism, RTI activists have declared it in contravention of the Constitution.

There is a long negative list (borrowing an analogy from Pak-India trade) and a small positive list of the information one can apply for. The draft law does not contain any definition of information and more energy has been spent in spelling out categories of information a citizen cannot access through a petition as six sections of the bill deal with the ‘negative list’.

Zahid Abdullah, Coordinator Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI), has urged the Senate sub-committee on information and broadcasting (author of this draft) to adopt the Freedom of Information Law 2013 of the Punjab after getting input from the civil society.

Punjab’s law was drafted by the caretaker government headed by chief minister Najam Sethi. Being a seasoned journalist, Sethi was determined to pass the draft into law through an ordinance; it was later decided to be left for the newly elected government to do.

Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had promised while talking to The News said that the information law will be the first bill to be pushed through the Punjab Assembly.

All eyes are set on him to see whether or not he translates his commitment into reality. The draft law is toothless and offers no hope of breaking the tight wall of secrecy by introducing radical clauses.

The draft law, according to CRTI, is in contravention of the spirit of Article 19-A of the Constitution. It is ironic that the draft law on right to information does not contain a clear definition of information, Zahid Abdullah said. The focus of the draft law is on enlisting categories of information that will not be provided to the citizens and six sections have been devoted for this purpose, he explained.

There should have been only one section enlisting information exempted from disclosure and the rest of the information should have been declared public as is the practice in effective laws around the world including India and Bangladesh, a statement issued by CRTI said.

Instead of establishing an independent information commission, the Federal Ombudsman has been entrusted with the task of playing the role of appellate body. If we want to ensure the free flow of information from public bodies to the citizens, the establishment of independent and autonomous information commission is a prerequisite as is the case in many countries including India and Bangladesh, CRTI argued.

Taking decisions on contentious matters pertaining to the right to information is a specialised job, which should only be entrusted to an independent and autonomous information commission.

Further, the role of the appellant body pertaining to the right to information is not just to decide disputes regarding access to information, which often involves vested interests and powerful mafias, and requires certain skills and competencies.

Its functions also include ensuring the proactive disclosure of information, issuing guidelines in this regard to the government and presenting an annual ‘state of right to information’ in the country to the legislative body, said CRTI statement.

The argument that the establishment of a new entity will incur extra expenditures does not really hold water. The benefits of an accountable and transparent government resulting from the efforts of a powerful information commission will far outweigh the costs of establishing such an institution, CRTI explains.

The caretaker Punjab government drafted a much better law in the shape of Punjab Freedom of Information Ordinance 2013, which is under the consideration of the Punjab government, than the one proposed by the Senate sub-committee. CPDI urges the federal government to adopt the draft Punjab Freedom of Information Ordinance 2013 after input from civil society organisations and media.

Press Release: CPDI appreciate PMLN Statement to stop MPs Development Funds

Press Release
CPDI appreciate PMLN Statement to Stop MPs Development Funds
Islamabad, May 23, 2013: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) welcomes the statement of Mian Nawaz Sharif to stop constituency development funds (CDF) to members of National and Provincial Assemblies for two years. It was told that decision to lift the ban will be taken once the economic conditions and electricity crises are dealt with. The statement also mentioned that there are chances to obliterate such funds forever. According to him Parliament should focus on its legislative work and leave the local government to execute the development work.
CPDI appreciates the contents of this statement but has reservations on the spirit of this statement. Provision of such funds should not be made conditional with the uplift in economic situation in the country. These funds are tantamount to trespass in the domain of local government. Local development should be left to local government alone.
CPDI has long taken the position that constituency development funds put on the disposal of MPs are against the spirit of separation of powers, whereby legislators job is to legislate for people. Legislatures are large bodies that made decision collectively, usually by majority vote. On can debate the quality of discussion, participation and voting procedures in assembly but the fact remains that decisions are made collectively. CDF, on the other hand, is departure from the spirit of collective decision-making. Here policy decisions are taken by individual MPs with little participation from people, for whom such decisions are being taken. A research conducted by CPDI in district Rawalpindi in year 2012 depicted that not a single MPA ever consulted his voters before deciding the development priorities of the constituency.
CPDI also believe that this announcement should be prelude to the resurrection of local government system in the country. This system has been deliberately ignored in the past to provide a chance to the members of national and provincial assemblies to lure constituents through development project. That practice should be stopped at once and local government system should be revived through out the country according to the spirit of article 32 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Budget Study Centre
Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives