The PML-N government might have been quick in announcing austerity measures – but the premier’s office itself hasn’t done much to reduce the burden on the national exchequer.
As part of its austerity measure, the government has placed hundreds of employees of the Prime Minister’s Office in the surplus pool of the Establishment Division (ED). Interestingly, these employees will continue to draw special dispensation given to the employees of the premier’s office, according to a letter issued by the PM office to the Finance Division.
The PM Office said: “The competent authority is pleased to approve that after their final adjustment in other organisations in due course, the regular employees of this [PM] office who are declared surplus from PM’s Office public shall continue to draw special dispensation.”
Under this order the employees are allowed ‘special dispensations’ which include fuel and electricity subsidy, President’s House allowance and the facility of rent-free accommodation.
The letter, signed by the Joint Secretary Ali Asghar, revealed that the PM office had sent 141 employees to the surplus pool last week. It was written in response to Nawaz Sharif’s directions to adopt austerity measures in government offices.
These officers were relieved of their duties with immediate effect and directions to report to the surplus pool of the ED, stated another letter signed by Syed Shakeel Shah.
The deputy secretary and private secretary to the premier, 26 assistant secretaries, 13 office assistants, 9 upper division clerks, 20 lower division clerks are to benefit from the orders. Besides, two telephone operators, a cook, 16 staff car drivers, 50 ‘naib qasids’, one ‘frash’ (sweeper) and one ‘oiler’ (masseur) will continue to receive special dispensation.
Commenting on the government’s step a retired joint secretary Farrukh Kazi stated, “This step may yield some fruits in the long run but for the time being it might be a futile attempt to bring significant relief in ED charges.”
He added that if the government was serious in reducing the expenditure it will have to form a transparent mechanism and appoint deserving people in the right office.
Clearing the government’s stance, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told The Express Tribune that these employees will continue to withdraw ‘special dispensation’ until they find new postings.
“More than 30 to 40 employees have already been posted this week and the rest of them will be accommodated soon,” he added. Those who were repatriated to their parent departments will not be eligible for this dispensation, he concluded.
Premier Nawaz Sharif in his first meeting with his office employees had announced to cut size of his staff where some 268 employees have already been sent to different parents departments.
The PM office currently employs 675 employees (external and internal departments). Some 489 out of the total belong to Punjab. According to official data available only 21 employees (3%) belong to Sindh (urban and rural). More than 114 employees (16%) hold Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa domicile. Around 46 employees (6%) are from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. While, six employees belong to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2013.