Sindh and other provinces are expected to take up the “incomplete devolution” issue before a special committee of the Senate in a meeting at the Cabinet Division, Islamabad on Tuesday (today), The News has learnt.
The provinces are likely to raise their reservations over the non-devolution or retention of several institutions by the federal government and press for the complete implementation of the 18th Constitutional Amendment’s mandate.
The chief secretaries of the four provinces and senior officials of the provincial and federal departments/divisions concerned are expected to attend the meeting.
The Senate’s special body on the devolution process was assigned the task of addressing the grievances of the provinces over the post-devolution issues. The committee will submit its recommendations to the federal government, sources told The News.
Several critical issues pertaining to the devolution process such as the retention of several institutions despite the devolution following the 18th Constitutional Amendment; legal financial and other issues of the devolved departments; and the fate of the employees of the devolved ministries are likely to dominate the debate.
Retention of institutions
The provinces are strongly opposing the retention of several institutions and organisations. The federal government, through three separate notifications (4-9/2011, 4-5/2011 and 4-17/2011) issued by the Cabinet Division in the years 2011 and 2012, has retained the control of the devolved institutions.
The sources said in the case of Sindh, there were at least 42 institutions of the devolved ministries, but the Centre was reluctant to hand over their control to the province.
Some of these institutions that are located in the province include the Workers Welfare Fund, the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution, the Evacuee Trust Property Board, the National Institute of Fertility Care, the National Coaching and Training Centre Karachi, the youth hostels in Karachi, Larkana and Jamshoro and the Korangi Fish Harbour whose control has been given to federal ministry of ports and shipping by the Centre. A few other institutions pertaining to tourism and agriculture inputs are also in the list.
The other provinces are facing the same issue. The sources said even though there were no affiliated institutions of devolved ministries in Balochistan, it was still supporting the stance of the other provinces on the issue.
The sources said there were several organisations still functional at the federal level owing to “legal, administrative, management, and funding issues”.
These organisations include the National Commission for Human Development, the National Education Foundation, the Pakistan Dairy Development Company, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation, the Expanded Programme for Immunisation, the HIV/AIDS Control Programme, the TB Control Programme, the Prime Minister’s Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis and the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Blindness.
The Centre had agreed to devolve all assets and liabilities of the devolved ministries, their funds, development projects, office buildings, furniture etc.
However, the sources said that there were “operational and legal constraints” preventing the winding up of the projects and organisations that should have been done by June 30, 2011.
The legal statutes through which the federal organisations of the devolved ministries will be transferred to the provinces also need to be amended at the federal level.
However, no legislation has been promulgated at the federal level before the devolution of these organisations. In contrast, the provincial governments have promulgated and amended a number of such statutes.
Fate of the employees
One of the crucial issues of the devolution process pertains to the fate of the employees of the devolved ministries. They have not been absorbed by the provinces as required under Section 10 of the Civil Servant Act 1973.
The Centre argues that this has stopped the career progression of the employees; however, the provinces believe that they are a financial burden on their exchequers on account of the deputation allowance payment.
It was agreed by the federal government that employees working in a ministry being abolished and not taken by the provinces would be adjusted in other ministries or divisions. It was also decided that none of them would be retrenched.
The Implementation Commission of the 18th Amendment had proposed that the employees working in different field organisations under the devolved ministries or divisions would be transferred to the respective administrations of the provinces and federal areas namely Islamabad, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan under Section 10 of the Civil Servant Act of 1973, “pending the formulation of a new enabling law on the subject”.
The sources said the Senate’s special committee would be given presentations by the secretaries or the heads of the organisations retained by the federal government about their functions and the mechanism to devolve them to the provinces.
The provinces are likely to present their views and suggest ways to resolve the post-devolution issues.