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June 18, 2019

Mayor berates Sindh govt for paltry allocations in budget for Karachi

Karachi

June 18, 2019

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has locked horns with the Sindh government over the provincial budget with Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar berating the latter for allocating a paltry amount for Karachi’s development.

The mayor made scathing remarks about the provincial government during a news conference held at the KMC Building on Monday.

Akhtar said the KMC had been writing letters to the provincial government to draw its attention to the problems of Karachi but no genuine response came from it as it always forwarded the letters to the local government secretary with the clichéd directives, “for necessary actions”.

Continuing with his tirade, the mayor said in the newly proposed Sindh budget of Rs1,200 billion, the provincial government had only allocated a meagre Rs1.74 billion for just seven projects in Karachi, which was approximately one per cent of the total budget.

Akhtar also criticised the seven projects. “What are their [Sindh government’s] priorities? How did they conceive these projects? What do they know about Karachi? Did they consult the KMC?” he asked.

One of the seven schemes was the rehabilitation and beautification of II Chundrigar Road, which was disparaged by the mayor. “Beautification is a vast terminology,” he remarked, adding that “under the beautification head, one can spend money anywhere.” The scheme had been allocated Rs240 million, which he said, would go waste.

In the similar fashion, Akhtar downplayed the schemes for the beautification of Ibne Sina Road Liaquatabad No 10 and University Road. “How many times will you construct the University Road?” he asked with an expression of frustration. “Billions of rupees have already been spent on this road.”

He also named other schemes for beautification of Mai Kolachi Road, Shahrah-e-Pakistan, Rashid Minhas Road and Sohrab Goth.

The Sindh government, he said, complained about not receiving its due share from the National Finance Commission (NFC) award and criticised the Centre for that but for its own part it was not giving the KMC its due share from the Octroi Zila tax (OZT). “Documents tell that for Octrai Zila tax, the Sindh government has been receiving complete payments,” he said and added that every month, the provincial government paid Rs500 million less to the KMC under the OZT head.

The mayor claimed that the Sindh government collected taxes of more than Rs400 billion from Karachi that included the motor vehicle tax, taxes on hotels and buildings, and property tax. “Where do they spend all these taxes?” he asked, censuring the government for only including seven schemes for Karachi in the budget.

“People of Karachi ask about the yearly tax and the OZT which they [Sindh government] get from Islamabad,” he said, adding that the Sindh government had not conducted any meeting of the Provincial Finance Commission. “There was only one meeting that was just a formality. They didn’t formulate any formula for the distribution of the PFC award among districts,” he said, calling it a violation of the Constitution’s Article 140-A which said the financial, administrative and political powers had to be devolved to the lower tiers of the government.

Akhtar said he had filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC) for the devolution of powers. He requested the chief justice to take up that petition and also take suo motu notice on the issue.

The mayor recalled that many judges of the SC and the Sindh High Court had recently made remarks about Karachi being at the brink of collapse. “Karachi has already been collapsed under the Sindh government,” he said. “Whatever jugglery they do with figures, people are not concerned about that. Their problems need to be resolved.”

Sharing the details of funds which the KMC had received from the Sindh government over the years, he said for the fiscal year 2015-16, Rs18 billion was allocated by the Sindh government for Karachi, 16 per cent of which was for the KMC. For 2016-17, Rs25 billion was allocated for Karachi and the KMC’s share in that was 16 per cent. For 2017-18, Rs30 billion was allocated for the city, of which Rs5 billion was given to the KMC.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the mayor said the Sindh government had allocated Rs20 billion for Karachi in which the KMC’s share was 16 per cent that amounted to Rs3 billion. “How can we complete our ongoing schemes in this budget?” he asked. “How will we complete even the schemes of our department’s maintenance?”

Funds allocated for the ongoing schemes amounted to some Rs2.5 billion which had resulted in a shortfall of Rs833 million, he said. “A quarter of the amount hasn’t been given to us,” he lamented.

Akhtar said the KMC also needed Rs1,600 billion funds in bloc allocation that were again not provided by the Sindh government. According to the mayor, the government announced a 15 per cent increase in the salaries in order to gain political advantage.

He said over the years, the gap between the grants to the KMC and its expenditures was widening due to which the corporation was facing financial distress. He shared that in 2017-18, the grant to the KMC for OZT, salaries and pension was Rs8 billion but the expenditure was more than Rs9 billion; whereas, in 2018-19, approximately Rs9 billion was the grant for salaries and pension and the expenditure was a little less than Rs10 billion.

“This shortfall of these two years is Rs560 million and Rs790 million respectively,” he said, adding that the corporation had to cover these shortfalls through recoveries.

Explaining the reasons for the shortfalls, he pointed out that the Sindh government announced an increase in the salaries, but never gave additional funds to the KMC’s finance department. The shortfall for the amount of raised salaries was Rs65 million, which, he said, had to be borne by the already cash-starved KMC.

“Now, how can I maintain my 14 hospitals, roads, bridges and underpasses falling under the KMC?” the mayor asked. “The Sindh government’s finance department is either asleep or highly incompetent.”

Of 95 per cent of the tax the provincial government collected from Karachi, it spent one per cent on the port-city, that too illegally, Akhtar said. “The Supreme Court asked them how they [Sindh government] could control mega projects. This function lies with the KMC under the Sindh Local Government Act 2013,” he said.

“Whether the federal government finances any project [for Karachi] or the Sindh government, the KMC has to be the executing body,” the mayor contended.

DMC’s complaints

The heads of various district municipal corporations (DMCs) also accompanied the mayor during the news conference.

DMC Central Chairman Rehan Hashmi alleged that the Sindh government was issuing special grants to their two favourite districts of the city.

According to Hashmi, District Central needed the most funds for development but no projects were announced for the district. Only because of the judicial commission on water and sanitation, he said, the district was once funded with a grant of Rs10 million.

The DMC Central chairman said he feared that in days to come the DMC would not be able to give salaries to its employees. “We would be sitting on roads then,” he warned.

DMC Korangi Chairman Nayyar Raza said the Sindh government was supposed to give Rs622 million to them.

DMC East Chairman Moeed Anwar lamented that schemes in his district were being delayed. Regarding the underpasses being constructed on Shaheed-e-Millat Road, he said no one was monitoring the project.

DMC West Chairman Izhar Ahmed Khan said they had a backlog of 70,000 tons of garbage in the district in spite of the fact that they handed over the function of solid waste collection to the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board a year ago.

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