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Friday April 12, 2024

Rs24bn okayed for post-retirement benefits, Covid doctors, security of elections

By Our Correspondent
January 23, 2024

The Sindh caretaker cabinet on Monday approved Rs24.3 billion to clear the pension and gratuity liabilities of retired government employees, pay salaries to the doctors who worked during the Covid-19 pandemic, and meet the expenditures to maintain law and order during the February 8 general elections.

Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar presides over a cabinet meeting at CM House on January 22nd, 2024. — Facebook/Sindh Chief Minister House
Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar presides over a cabinet meeting at CM House on January 22nd, 2024. — Facebook/Sindh Chief Minister House

The advisory group’s meeting chaired by interim chief minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar was told that due to financial constraints, budgetary allocations for pension payments were limited, so the pending liabilities and the number of retired civil servants waiting to receive their post-retirement benefits have been continuously on the rise.

The waiting time for retired employees to receive their payments on account of commutation, gratuity and leave pending retirement (LPR) ranges from 12 months to 18 months. At present 19,537 retired civil servants are awaiting their dues amounting to Rs36.842 billion, including 11,657 awaiting Rs30.568 billion in commutation, 733 awaiting Rs0.973 billion in gratuity and 7,147 awaiting Rs5.301 billion in LPR dues as of November 30, 2023, in all districts of the province.

Considering the current backlog of post-retirement benefits amounting to Rs36.842 billion for paying commuted value of pension, gratuity and leave encashment, Baqar approved Rs21.558 billion.

This amount includes Rs0.973 billion being 100 per cent of the pending liabilities under gratuity, Rs5.301 billion being 100 per cent of the pending liabilities under LPR and Rs15.284 billion being 50 per cent of the pending liabilities under commutation.

Covid doctors

The cabinet was also told that services of doctors, staff nurses, and paramedical and supporting staff were hired on a services-rendered basis for 89 days during the pandemic in 2020. The health department kept extending the tenure of services of doctors and other staff until June 2023.

However, the services of 1,054 technical and supporting paramedical staff (working at tertiary hospitals of the province), and 4,502 skilled and supporting human resources for Covid vaccination centres (CVCs) have not been extended from April 1, 2023, and verification is required to ascertain their status about regularity and punctuality.

The advisory group extended the service period of the Covid-19 doctors and staff nurses for one year, that is from July 2023 to June 2024.

It also extended the hiring period of the 1,054 staff and the 4,502 human resources whoseservices have not been extended from April 1, 2023, to June 2024,subject to verification of their regularity, on a case-to-case basis. It also approved Rs4.06 billion to pay their salaries during 2023-24.

Polls security

The home department told the cabinet that the police have submitted a request for additional funds amounting to Rs625.467 million to meet the expenses to be incurred on maintaining law and order during the polls. The requisite funds are for all the police ranges, the traffic police and the IGP office.

The required funds include Rs210.284 million for food, Rs148.052 million for fuel, Rs50.486 million for hiring vehicles, Rs116.205 million for hiring auxiliary force, Rs90.439 million for repairing transport/machinery, Rs4 million for stationery and Rs6 million for miscellaneous expenditures.

After thorough discussions and deliberations, the cabinet decided to approve Rs625.467 million, of which Rs437.827 million (or 70 per cent) will be released immediately. The remaining amount will be released on the submission of the reconciled and verified bills after the elections.

Water, sewerage

The advisory group also approved Rs3.5 billion for the Karachi Water & Sewerage Corporation (KWSC) to execute the project of laying a dedicated water supply pipeline from Damloti to the Defence Housing Authority (DHA).

The cabinet also approved Rs2.5 billion to provide a dedicated water supply pipeline for the SITE Industrial Area Karachi. In consultation with his advisory group, the caretaker CM approved Rs2.5 billion for the KWSC to execute the project itself.

The cabinet was told that the Greater Karachi Sewerage Project (S-III) was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council in 2007 for Rs7.982 billion, with 50-50 funding by the Sindh and the federal governments.

The scheme was revised for Rs36.116 billion with the Centre’s share capped at Rs3.991 billion. In the last 13 years Rs14.119 billion has been released, resulting in the slow progress of the project. In 2023-2024 only Rs725 million has been allocated.

Karachi generates about 455 mgd of wastewater. Only 54 mgd is treated at the treatment plant TP-III Mauripur. With a small investment, the treatment capacity can be increased to 135 mgd (by increasing pumping capacity at TP-III and rehabilitating TP-I).

It was suggested that the scope of the S-III project be reduced for the treatment of sewage at TP-I and TP-III, amounting to 135 mgd collectively. The cabinet approved Rs2.2 billion for S-III projects in the financial year 2023-24, in addition to the already allocated amount of Rs725 million.