Rs3bn secret funds for one ministry
By Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD: While calls for disclosing details of budgetary allocations in parliament and its standing committees are getting louder, the ministry of information and broadcasting will spend nearly Rs3 billion under the head of ‘other expenditures’ without explaining the purpose for which such a huge amount has been allocated.
Details of a secret fund which the ministry keeps for its hitherto unknown operations and officially admits having spent are also missing from the budget documents.
According to the demands for grants and appropriations presented before the National Assembly on Friday, the government has earmarked Rs4.197 billion for the ministry’s annual expenditures – a 15 per cent increase from the current year spending of Rs3.641 billion.
Of the amount, Rs325.662 million has been set aside for the information and broadcasting division; Rs117.314 million for the directorate of publications, newsreels and documentaries and Rs456.031 million for information services abroad. These expenses have been explained in detail, including pay, allowances, operating expenses, employees’ retirement benefits, repair and maintenance.
The Rs2.972 billion head of other expenditures of information and broadcasting division only mentions Rs39.69 million for other industries, Rs199.804 million for cultural services and Rs2.7 billion for broadcasting and publishing.
According to an officer of the ministry, funds parked under this head include the annual expenditure on the Associated Press of Pakistan and Radio Pakistan, but this is not mentioned in the budget document.
The officer said secret spending was also made from this portion and that was the purpose for not mentioning its details. He said it was written in the cashbook of the ministry that details of the money spent from the secret fund would not be disclosed to the public.
The secret fund maintained by the ministry has been a subject for discussion at various forums.
Responding to audit objections at a Public Accounts Committee meeting this year, the then information secretary, Sohail Mansoor, admitted that the ministry had doled out Rs570 million from the fund in 2007-08. Refusing to disclose the purpose behind the spending, he said the practice had been there for four decades and every government had used the fund.
However, Auditor General Tanvir Ali Agha said only the president had the authority to declare any fund secret. “As far as my office’s information is concerned, the information ministry has not provided us with any such certification from the Presidency, therefore, these funds are auditable.”
On directives of the PAC, the auditor general is carrying out a special audit of all ministries which keep secret funds and the report is likely to be presented to the committee.