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> Budgetary Demands for Grants must be reviewed by Parliamentary Committees

March 03, 2011


Islamabad; March 03; Parliamentary Committees must review budgetary demands for grants in order to effectively oversee the executive. Parliament’s role in the budget needs to be enhanced, and a Pre-Budget session should be held in March to get Parliamentarians’ input before the finalization of budget. These views were expressed at a PILDAT Workshop held for Chairs and Members of Parliamentary Committees on How to Review Budget and Demands for Grants. Committee chairs and members believed that technical understanding of MPs needs to be enhanced through such forums specifically held also for Parliamentary Parties.


Mr. Nohman Ishtiaq, Public Financial Management Specialist, briefed Parliamentarians in detail on the budget documents presented to the Parliament and how those can be used to evaluate and review budget. He said that Parliamentary Committees specifically need to review their related ministries’ demands for grants by comparing those with each ministry/division’s goals and objectives presented for 3 years in the Medium Term Budgetary Framework booklet. He said that Committees must review whether principles of good budgeting, i.e., fiscal discipline, strategic prioritisation, and operational efficiency, have been utilised in budget.


Presenting an analysis on how to review defence budget, he said that in order to understand the requirements of the budget, it is important to analyse the services that will be provided by using the budget amounts, and what is the policy of organisation. While looking at the available figures, some of the possible questions Defence Committees could ask may include such as how many employees work in the Army as per field formations; What is the pay structure of the Army personnel and what is the budgeted amount for each level of officer, JCO/ORs and civilians? How many posts does the Army intend to fill in 2010-11? How are Travel and Transportation costs arrived at? What is the average amount of fuel required for logistics support, admin, trainings, operations etc.?What does the head 'General' include? Why is there around 45% increase as compared to the budget 2009-2010? What types of Assets will be purchased divided into broad categories of weapons and equipments, vehicles, furniture, computers, etc.? How many civil works will be completed in the next year as compared to the previous year and what is the cost of war on terror and how it is funded, etc. Similarly, presenting another example of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, he explained how the Committee could frame possible questions keeping in view value for money, policy priority, etc.


Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, MNA and Member National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, who was also invited to chair the workshop, said that there is an urgent needs for all political parties to get together to find ways for revenue generation for the economy as the fiscal space available for state is negligible and the biggest crisis facing Pakistan. He appreciated PILDAT’s efforts for raising such issues and building MPs’ capacities and said reform in Parliament’s role in budget is needed. Parliamentarians require offices and technical staff in order to effectively carry out their functions of executive’s oversight.


Mr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, MNA, Chair of National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, raised questions about checking the efficiency and integrity and highlighted that the practice of post-effect passage of supplementary budget is in effect a black hole for corruption and a method should be adopted through which Parliamentary approval and committee consent should be required for passage of supplementary budget before it is used.


Key Parliamentarians at the session included Senator Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Leader of the House in the Senate, Mr. Nadeem Afzal Gondal, MNA, Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Rules and Privileges, Sheikh Waqas Akaram, MNA, Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum & Natural Resources, Mrs. Tahira Aurangzeb, MNA, member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, Mr. Noor Alam Khan, MNA, Parliamentary Secretary of Commerce, Begum Nuzhat Sadiq, MNA, member, National Assembly Standing Committee on Information & Broadcasting, Malak Azmat Khan, MNA, Chairman, National Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Affairs & Statistics, Mrs. Nisar Tanveer, MNA, member National Assembly Standing Committee on Women Development, Mrs. Khalida Mansoor, MNA, member National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue & Planning and Development, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, MNA, Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Water & Power, Mrs. Nighat Mir, MNA; member National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue & Planning and Development and Mrs. Shehnaz Saleem, MNA, member National Assembly Standing Committee on Tourism etc. among others. Legislative staff assisting various committees also took part in the workshop.


Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director, PILDAT in his opening remarks stressed on the need for reforms in Parliament and Parliamentary Committees role in the budget process. He proposed that Parliament should convene a Pre-Budget Session in March, to be preceded by a fiscal overview by the Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission. Time of budget session needs to be increased and budget should be sent to committees after its presentation in the house, for detailed review by committees before budget debate begins in the House. He said that Parliamentary control and scrutiny of the budget is one of Parliament’s most important powers. He said that the objective behind holding the workshop is to assist Parliamentary Standing Committees to understand and scrutinize the budget.


A PILDAT paper on How to Review Budget and Demands for Grants? A Guide for Parliamentary Standing Committees has been especially prepared in English and Urdu for the benefit of Committees.