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Accountability of education spending urged
« on: September 11, 2013, 09:38:24 AM »
Accountability of education spending urged
Lahore: 11 September : Elected public representatives and educationists on Tuesday suggested submission of quarterly review of education budget spending before the Punjab Assembly.
Speaking at a policy dialogue on ‘’Effectiveness of Education Financing: Post-Budget Scenario 2013-2014”, organized by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (ISAPS) in collaboration with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the public representatives and educationists also suggested accountability mechanism on the education spending at least on yearly basis. The dialogue also highlighted opportunities and challenges in the implementation of Article 25-A – Right to Free and Compulsory Education.
Research Fellow at ISAPS Ahmad Ali gave a detailed presentation on post education budget scenario 2013-2014 and talked about poor utilization of education budget in the past by the School Education Department, Punjab. He said that, out of total Rs 15.5 billion development budget for schools, only Rs 1.8 billion had been released during the first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year. He said the trend of release was poor and, comparing it with the past, it was being felt that the utilization might also be poor this time. Ahmad Ali also expressed concern over cut in non-salary budget head under the current budget saying it was 34.6 percent in the current budget unlike 35.6 percent of the 2012-13 budget. He also suggested the same needed to be enhanced as it was directly linked with quality education. In his presentation, the ISAPS Research Fellow claimed that, despite zero spending on seven developments schemes of School Education and eight of Higher Education Departments of Punjab government allocated funds against the same schemes in the current budget. He appreciated the Punjab government for enhancing the budget of Provincial Education Assessment System (PEAS), saying that, in other provinces, it was either dysfunctional or not did not provide the budget at all. Ahmad Ali suggested that education departments should submit quarterly spending reports to the Punjab Assembly, saying that monitoring would certainly make a difference.

 

Punjab Minister for Labour Raja Ashfaq Sarwar agreed to the suggestion and said other departments should also be asked to submit quarterly review reports to the Punjab Assembly. He regretted, saying “I admit we have not been able to utilize funds, the way these should be.” Former Punjab Education Minister of PML-Q Mian Imran Masood talked in detail about education initiatives taken during his government, saying the World Bank and other foreign organizations had widely appreciated initiatives, like Punjab Education Foundation, introduction of free education and provision of free textbooks and stipend to girl students, etc. The former minister said 2.2 million new students were enrolled in public schools because of such initiatives, adding that, during his tenure as education minister, the education budget was monitored and reviews were held on quarterly and yearly basis.

 

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Dr Murad Ras said it was better if Punjab’s education minister Rana Mashhood, instead of the Labour Minister, had attended the dialogue. Dr Murad lamented that assembly business was not being taken seriously, saying he had raised similar issues on the floor of the House but the majority had not listened to the same. “Everything we highlight in the Assembly is bulldozed by the one side (PML-N) which has majority in the house”, he added. Mohammad Naeem Sidhu of ISAPS gave a presentation on Article 25-A, saying it was incorporated in the Constitution in April 2010 but, despite passage of three years and six months, the Punjab government could not introduce legislation to start free and compulsory education. Ahmed Ali talked about requirements for the implementation of Article 25-A in the next 15 years, saying that 144,000 new teachers, 65,000 new schools and 263,184 new classrooms were required for this purpose. PML-N MPA Saira Iftikhar said education was the passion of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. She also endorsed the suggestion of quarterly review of education spending by the Assembly, saying performances should be evaluated and mechanism of accountability put in place. The news.
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