PAC Unhappy With Finance Ministry’s Handling of COVID-19 Relief Fund

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) voiced its concerns regarding the Finance Ministry’s briefing on the Rs. 1,240 billion COVID-19 relief package, on Wednesday, after the ministry reportedly failed to satisfy the committee.

During an audit briefing of the Finance Division, the committee expressed its concern that only Rs. 186 billion of the principal amount of Rs. 500 billion promised by Prime Minister Imran Khan for citizen relief has been released so far and was surprised that the remaining Rs. 334 billion has not been made available yet.

According to the Ministry of Finance, Rs. 334 billion was spent on COVID-19 in 2019-20, Rs. 187.89 billion in 2020-21, and Rs. 352 billion so far this financial year, while $2.6 billion was received in external financing for budget assistance, project funding, and grants during the pandemic.

Officials from the Finance Ministry told the committee that the Rs. 1,240 billion relief program was an overall package rather than a one-year deal, adding that out of the total funds, Rs. 365 billion in non-cash aid and Rs. 875 billion in cash aid were initially planned. Officials explained to the committee that Rs. 334 billion was issued from additional sources in the fiscal year 2019-20.

It was informed that during COVID-19, the prime minister proposed a package worth Rs. 200 billion to provide assistance to daily wage employees, for which a supplementary grant of Rs. 16 billion was released and Rs. 184 billion was still pending.

Funds totaling Rs. 150 billion were declared for vulnerable families, with Rs. 145 billion in extra grants allocated for those without shelter. Additionally, Rs. 50 billion was announced for Utility Stores, but only Rs. 10 billion was granted. Moreover, while an Rs. 100 billion subsidy for electricity and gas was announced, the committee complained that a supplemental grant to the tune of only Rs. 15 billion had been provided thus far.

In extension, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) got Rs. 168 billion between March 2020 and December 2021, of which, Rs. 144 billion was spent against COVID-19 and a fund of Rs. 17.4 billion was available, according to the authority’s chairman. He told the committee that China has approved a grant of Rs. 404 million for anti-corona measures and remarked that a few objections of the audit were unrelated to the NDMA.

In response to a question on the source of funding for the Rs. 1,240 billion relief package, officials from the Finance Ministry stated that no external funds were used in the first year of 2019-20. The committee was dissatisfied with the finance ministry officials’ briefing, and the PAC chairman instructed the officials to come prepared next time.

Source: Pro Pakistani