Costly new vehicles: Punjab must dial down bureaucrats’ ambitions

Finance Minister Leghari expresses concern about the decision, saying it could  hurt PTI government politically

Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Laghari has expressed serious concerns over the purchase of luxury vehicles worth Rs1 billion for the officers of the Board of Revenue (BOR) alone, saying the decision goes against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) mandate.

The purchase of vehicles worth millions of rupees for other departments like the police, irrigation department, Lahore Development Authority, etc shocked the minister. He said that the people did not vote for the PTI and its coalition government so that the tax money of citizens would be used to provide luxury to officers. He said that the bureaucracy will have fun but the infamy will come to the political government.

He also said that it is not understandable what the purpose of buying expensive luxury cars is when the officers already have good vehicles. He said that it does not matter whether the officer gets off from an ordinary car or from a Fortuner. During the colonial period, he said, the British gave big houses and cars to high officials for a specific purpose so that they could influence the public.

Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari holds a weekly meeting with senior officers of the Finance Department to review the officers’ performance. The department officers brief the minister on major projects, how much money has been released and which division has the highest spending rate. He said that the austerity committee was created to prevent wasteful spending of public money. He expressed surprise that despite the measures we are unable to stop this wasteful expenditure.

He said that as the Minister of Irrigation, he was told that many vehicles of the department were being misused, so I issued an order to provide the details of all the vehicles. He could not get the complete record of the vehicles, he confessed. He even said that a former secretary of the Irrigation Department had confided in buying two Fortuners but he flatly refused to do so.

He said that people have voted for us to improve the efficiency of institutions and solve public problems, but the way things are going it will give a wrong impression to the people. If such moves continue in the future as well we may have to face public wrath in the next election. The Board of Revenue (BOR) Punjab has approved the purchase of 93 new luxury vehicles for its members, deputy commissioners (DCs) and Additional Deputy Commissioners (ADCs) Revenue. It will cost about one billion rupees to the exchequer.

It may be recalled that forty Fortuner petrol vehicles will be purchased for deputy commissioners at Rs 533 million, 12 Corolla X vehicles for board members at Rs 58 million. Likewise, forty vehicles will be bought for additional deputy commissioners (revenue). These vehicles will be Hilux Revo and the cost of each vehicle will be, approximately, one crore rupees. A total of around forty crore rupees will be spent on the purchase of these vehicles for field babus. The government has also approved the purchase of forty expensive vehicles for the Chief Minister’s House and provincial ministers, which will cost more than three hundred million rupees. The CM Ch Parvez Elahi Punjab government has already given vehicles worth rupees 930 million to the Punjab Police.  The vehicles were purchased for operational purposes of Elite Force, Special Protection Unit,  and Counter Terrorism department etc. Earlier, CM Usman Buzdar had also provided 571 vehicles Punjab Police.  as per details 500 new vehicles for police stations, 47 for Highway patrolling and 24 for the Elite Force.

Reportedly the Lahore High Court Directorate of district judiciary has also purchased 308 new vehicles for its judges. The purpose of facilitating the judicial officers was to speedily dispose of about 2 million pending cases with the courts, claimed a judge. The Punjab government had already purchased 3,000 CC vehicles for assistant commissioners (ACs) of grade 17. According to the rules, a grade seventeen officer cannot use a vehicle of more than 1000c. The rules were relaxed for this purpose and 556 million rupees were spent by the government of Punjab to buy 147 vehicles for ACs. The Chief Minister of Punjab has also approved 37 vehicles for Lahore Development Authority (LDA) officers worth 15 crores. The authority has conveyed to the CM that without facilities their performance cannot be accelerated. Chief Minister Parvez Elahi approved the proposal to purchase new vehicles.

Javed Iqbal is a special correspondent covering the Punjab government with a particular focus on bureaucracy. He has unearthed a number of mega scams while working with leading media houses. He tweets @javedjahangiri and can be reached at javediqbal344@gmail.com.

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