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June 19, 2019

City council unanimously demands more funds for union committees

Karachi

June 19, 2019

In a rare move, the treasury and opposition members of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) city council, including those belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), joined hands on Tuesday to unanimously adopt two resolutions against the Sindh government’s bid to reduce the funds of union committees (UCs).

One of the resolutions, which was moved by the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Junaid Mukati, demanded that the provincial government increase the monthly funds to the UCs from Rs500,000 to Rs1 million. He said Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar should hand over at least Rs500,000 to the UCs.

Held in the Council Hall of the KMC head office, the city council meeting was chaired by the mayor and, among others, attended by Deputy Mayor Syed Arshad Hasan and Metropolitan Commissioner Dr Syed Saifur Rehman.

Before passing the resolution, the mayor, who also acts as the speaker in the council’s sessions, explained that according to the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA), the KMC cannot fund the UCs. “I cannot give funds [to the UCs]; I am bound by the law.”

In a separate resolution, which was also passed unanimously, the city council demanded that the provincial government provide Rs2.5 million monthly funds to the UCs. In this regard, a committee was established through the same resolution.

The mayor ordered including leaders of all the political parties that are part of the council in the committee, which will be headed by the deputy mayor. The committee will also submit suggestions for making improvements in the SLGA 2013.

The mayor explained that under the SLGA, he cannot give any scheme more than Rs20 million. He said that the estimated cost to construct a big road is Rs450 million, which he cannot spend.

“The mega schemes rest with the Sindh government,” he said, adding that the engineering department lies under him and construction is the KMC’s function, “but powers are with the Sindh government. This is the system. Amendment can be done through the provincial assembly”.

He explained that funds for the Annual Development Programme come in four quarters from the Sindh government in a year, with each quarter’s fund being Rs830 million. As for

the last quarter, he said the provincial government has not released the funds, due to which the KMC is unable to complete its pending projects.

Regarding recovery and taxes, he said that during the time of the City District Government Karachi, they used to generate revenue of around Rs7 billion. That revenue, he pointed out, used to come under betterment charges, property tax, commercialisation tax and other heads. All of these, according to him, are now under the provincial government, and their tax and revenue collection is around Rs1 billion.

The council approved 11 different resolutions, including the approval of 722 contract employees, establishment of a zoo department, curtailment in the KMC officers’ privileges, change of name of municipal services senior director to municipal services director general, decreasing the number of KMC departments from 45 to 14, establishment of a metropolitan commissioner secretariat as well as a central record registry department as part of the administration department.

The mayor said they have a block allocation for new schemes, which has also been halted by the Sindh government. “We [the council] will collectively approach [Local Government Minister] Saeed Ghani for these issues.”

The council sprung into aggressive mode when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s elected chairman from District West, Saeed Mairaj, demanded a resolution against Ghani. He mentioned how his district has been littered with garbage and the provincial government has failed to clean it.

To this the PPP’s female candidates in the council surrounded Mairaj and tried to manhandle him. The party’s chairmen shouted “Go Niazi Go”, making Mairaj take his words back on the mayor’s advice.

According to Mukati, the weakest people in the LG system are councillors, chairmen and vice-chairmen. “The public can only approach them, but they cannot even change a light bulb of any street.”

According to other resolutions passed in the meeting, the contract employees who have become permanent would be paid their salary from January 1, 2019, the post of the senior director has been abolished in the schedule of establishment of the KMC, and now 19- and 20-grade officers will be called directors and those of 18- and 19-grade will be called additional directors.

The KMC, according to the mayor, has been facing a financial crunch, and to deal with the situation, many changes have been made on administrative level to save resources and bring improvement in the overall performance of the corporation.

He said that with the curtailment in POL expenditures and closure of newspapers and telephone facility at the residences of officers as well as other measures, millions of rupees would be saved in the KMC.

He also said that only competent and experienced officers were inducted in the present setup, and if the opposition thought anyone to be competent enough, they should identify such officials and they will be posted without any delay.

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