Quality of local consultants not up to mark, WB to govt

July 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government has raised objections to utilisation of 20 to 30 percent funds amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars for providing fee to foreign consultants in multilateral...

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ISLAMABAD: The government has raised objections to utilisation of 20 to 30 percent funds amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars for providing fee to foreign consultants in multilateral donor-sponsored projects undertaken in Pakistan.

The amount of consultancy fee ranges from 10 to 29 percent as it is worked out by the federal government in case of some projects of provincial governments with the assistance of international lenders. It’s worrying aspect that foreign consultants are pocketing a major chunk out of it on the name of consultancies.

“We have raised this issue before high ups of multilateral creditors working in Pakistan as there are some donor-funded projects where funds up to 30 percent are being utilised on name of studies through foreign consultants,” top official sources told The News.

The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms have taken up this issue of foreign consultants during a meeting with the World Bank’s Country Director Illango Patchamuthu last week in which the WB team replied that quality of local consultants was not up to mark so the government should move cautiously in order to avoid delays in execution of projects.

A top official said the Planning Commission on occasion of approving projects always directed the ministries/divisions as well as provinces to give preference to local consultants or where it is necessary to hire international consultants there should be provision of joint venture among foreign and local consultants so that required knowledge can be obtained by our consultants.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance issued office memorandum (OM) for release of development funds under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the current fiscal year. Funds for current and development expenditure shall be released at the level of 20 percent each for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, and at the level of 30 percent of each for Quarter 3 and Quarter 4, except the funds required for payment of salaries and pensions which would be released at 25 percent of budget for each quarter.

The cases relating to international and domestic contractual/obligatory payments that are beyond these limits shall be considered on case to case basis and relaxation shall require prior approval of the finance secretary; organisations/entities that are provided single-line budget shall be required to provide their annual budget including detailed head-wise expenditure and own receipts for current financial year and last financial year; all payments shall be made through the pre-audit system of the Accountant General Pakistan Revenue (AGPR), or through assignment account procedures issued by the Finance Division. Any direct payment through the State Bank of Pakistan shall be made as a special case, with the prior approval of the finance secretary; proposals for supplementary grant/technical supplementary grant shall be routed through the Budget Wing of Finance Division on the enclosed proforma, before these are approved/endorsed by the finance secretary/finance minister in-charge/adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue for onward submission to the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet.

The strategy for release of funds relating to PSDP will remain the same except following: No funds shall be released for un-approved projects; funds for Quarter 1, not exceeding Rs500 million, shall be recommended/released by the Planning, Development and Reform (PD&R) Division. Amounts exceeding Rs500 million shall be referred to Budget Wing of Finance Division for ways and means clearance; funds for quarter 2 onwards will be recommended by Planning, Development and Reforms Division after due examination/scrutiny and shall be forwarded to Finance Division for ways and means clearance along with cash work plan and second utilisation report of funds duly reconciled with AGPR/accounts office and approval of principal accounting officer of concerned ministry/division; funds would not be released for unapproved projects. Further, if for any project, no funds have been released during the first two quarters, only 40 percent allocation would be released for remaining two quarters and PSDP releases would be made for each quarter and release for two quarters would not be made in one go. The cases that are approved through ways and means clearance shall be sent back by Finance Division to respective ministries/divisions under intimation to the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms and sanction letter addressed to AGPR for release of funds would be issued by concerned ministry/division duly endorsed by Finance Division, the OM concluded.


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