Saving Rs30 billion a year - Ikram Sehgal - Thursday, March 24, 2011

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On Monday Shahbaz Sharif pre-empted the all-out strike in Punjab by the Provincial Civil Services (PCS) grades, from BS-17 to BS-21. They were protesting the rank injustice and discrimination against them by the APUG (All-Pakistan Unified Grades), or DMG (District Management Group), as they are better known. The strike call obviously ruffled motivated interest. The Shahbaz Sharif government arrested the leaders of the PCS movement, seeking redress of genuine grievances peacefully, in keeping with the feudal mindset that separates our present “democratic” leaders from the norms of democracy. Running the federation and a province for three years, the PPP is guilty of maladministration, but it has never displayed such crude highhandedness. The major crime of the PCS officers is giving valuable “insider” suggestions for “good governance” – i.e., elimination of unnecessary perquisites far beyond authorisation, a move which would cut expenditures and add revenues. The glaring flaws and deficiencies in the present system need to be corrected. Unfortunately, “bad governance” by deliberate maladministration serves the vested interest of the ruling bureaucracy, aided and condoned by politicians when in power, or by the military hierarchy during martial laws.

Few in numbers, the APUG’s domination of “the Establishment” allows them to manipulate rules and regulations at will, or simply ignore them, while ruling the country the country with an iron hand. The irony (and tragedy) is that the vast PCS bureaucracy are willing collaborators in the subjugation and exploitation of common citizens of the land across the board, a further irony (and continuing tragedy) being the provincial police personnel who were used to arrest the PCS personnel are subject to similar injustice themselves.

Notwithstanding the PCS leaders’ unjust and illegal incarceration being an outrageous atrocity that the superior judiciary must take cognisance of, the suggestions on how money can be saved and/or revenues increased needs detailed examination: (1) senior bureaucrats should not use more than one vehicle; (2) houses should be of limited size, with controlled repairs/renovation; (3) elimination of special allowances like project allowances; (4) completion of development work in time to avoid escalation; (5) all non-APUG officers to be sent back to the federal government as their postings to the province, already declared unconstitutional by the superior courts and strains the provincial budget; (6) medical bills need detailed scrutiny, treatment must be within the country and bills of APUG officers borne by the federal government; (7) frequent transfers avoided and OSDs from federal government repatriated; (8) APUG Basic Scale (BS)-22 officers repatriated to the federal government as their posting in the province, except the chief secretary, is illegal; (9) training of provincial officers by MPDD instead of NIPA/MMC as a huge amount is paid (Rs650,000 per officer) to these institutions; (10) buildings rented be replaced by building on Punjab government lands; (11) utilities allowance of Rs30,000 to provincial secretaries be withdrawn and maximum ceiling fixed for officers; and (12) rates for TA/DA rationalised.

The savings effected by these reforms would be about Rs30 billion per annum.

The reforms would cover the patwaris, tehsildars, sub-registrars, etc., and will minimise litigation and facilitate the judiciary. It will stop fraud/pilferage of revenues and stop bloody feuds that take place because of disputes. The present collection of revenues by the Revenue Department is abysmal. To proceed one must: (1) do rate fixation for rural areas as for urban areas; (2) rate fixation for upper floors; (3) standard rate fixed for super structure, a standard rate for construction and levying of taxes; (4) schedule rate fixed for urban areas must show market price of land; (5) stop the widespread pilferage of government taxes by concealing actual value of property, worth hundreds of millions they are shown for a fraction of their value. There must be a penal clause for undervaluation and informers be rewarded. If anyone from the public offers more than 50 per cent of the property value property, that transaction should be allowed; (6) verbal sale (Bai-e-Zabani) be stopped, sale/purchase of over 80 per cent of the properties are executed through Patwaris (BPS-5) and evaluated through naib tehsildar (BPS-14); (7) patwaris are mostly paid low salaries, and it is incomprehensible how a patwari can maintain his office (Patwari Khana is usually arranged by him). Without any infrastructure or official incentives the Patwari’s job satisfaction stems from corruption inherent in his office. With a close relationship to landowners, indeed virtually under their influence, the most important cog in the local administration is thus hopelessly compromised by the feudals; (8) similarly, clerks in the district administration indulge in mega corruption that keeps the machinery going for all PCS ranks. There is unplanned work, unequal workload distribution and frustration over lack of promotion, etc.; (9) modern technology (computerisation) will help in easing the workload and accurate recordkeeping, pre-audit, etc.; (10) the Revenue Act of 1967 has become irrelevant after abolition of land revenues; (11) provincial dues from housing societies, NHA, etc., must be recorded; (12) widespread reforms include: (a) publicity for exact fees for government transactions, (b) accountability for government officials – they must justify their means of living, (c) wilful loss caused be treated as criminal case, (d) all registries mutated within 10 days, failing which patwaris and tehsildars are charge-sheeted.

Reforms are needed in the office of the sub-registrar, on the pattern followed in the Defence Housing Authorities (DHA): (1) the full-time registrar doing no other duties; (2) digital photos or thumb impressions being made a must; (3) NADRA ID a must for all, including women; (4) Appointing lawyers on “commission” as sub-registrars be stopped; (5) amendments are required in Registration Act 1968/rules 1929, particularly abolishing Rule 135, which says, “registering officers must not be concerned with validity of documents”; (6) bring all unutilised land of the Punjab government into use with commissioners, DCOs, etc., to target philanthropists for engaging in education and health; (7) small normal fees like “FARD,” copy fee, muqabla fee on registration, domicile fee, etcl, be abolished, because these only add to corruption; (8) revenue cases be decided in 80-120 days, with at least two appeals taking not more than a year, a mechanism to ensure revenue cases are heard on time and without delays and postponements with a one-window facility. The additional revenues of Rs50 billion envisaged can be accomplished in fairly a short time.

These recommendations amounting to a Rs80 billion windfall in the Punjab budget of Rs800 billion were made by Rai Manzoor Nazir, president of the PCS/PSS/PMS Officers Association of Punjab, the undisputed elected leader of the body that represents 1,200 officers belonging to BS-17 to BS-21, this candour and honesty is exactly what got him and his colleagues into trouble.

They were arrested less for voicing their protest than for propagating how people’s rights could be protected and corruption minimised. No one wants honest officers to come forward and tell the truth regarding means of saving unnecessary expenditures avoidance of perennial disputes and elimination of corruption and waste. All this malfeasance puts an extraordinary burden on the judiciary.

“Good governance” is certainly not in the lexicon of those “new feudals,” having fake credentials and elected “democratically” on bogus votes. They say justice is blind, in Pakistan it seems to be mostly deaf and dumb!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:

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