Ministers fail to satisfy MPs on budget spending
KABUL (PAN): The Wolesi Jirga (lower house of Parliament) on Monday rejected answers from four ministers summoned by the house to explain why they could not utilise their last year’s budgetary allocations.
Justice Minister Habibullah Ghalib, Refugee Affairs Minister Jamahir Anwari, acting Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Dr. Ali Najafi and Hajj Minister Dr. Yousaf Niazi insisted they had used more than 40 percent of development funds.
A final report on last year’s budget says the justice ministry spent 35 percent of its budget, the refugees’ ministry 38 percent, the transport ministry 33 percent and the hajj ministry 32 percent.
But the justice minister disputed the report, saying his ministry had spent more development funds. Habibullah Ghalib added they had utilised 56 percent of the development budget.
He said the ministry had been granted development funds by the World Bank for two years and the percentage should be determined after that period.
For his part, the refugee affairs minister said they had utilised 41 percent of the budget. “It is beyond my understanding why a wrong percentage has been shown by the finance ministry in its report,” Jamahir Anwari wondered.
The aviation minister said of the $30 million development budget approved for his ministry, only $17 million had been released so far. Najafi explained his ministry had spent $10.9 million, or 62 percent of the budget.
The hajj minister acknowledged his ministry had been unable to spend a major part of the development funds, citing insecurity and lack of land for development projects.
He said they intended to build a haji camp in eastern Nangarhar province, but failed to acquire land for the project. The ministry has signed several contracts for development projects, which are to be initiated this month.
Amounts left over from projects have not been calculated, he said. “For example, we had allocated $200,000 for a project that actually cost $180,000. The leftover money was transferred to another scheme,” Niazi continued.
Ahmad Javed Jalali, the director general of the Budget Department at the Ministry of Finance, endorsed the ministers’ explanations. He said the final report was correct, but the ministers were talking about discretionary funds provided by the Ministry of Finance.
However, Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said the explanations offered by the ministers were unacceptable to lawmakers. He added the house would make a decision on the ministers’ fate in next session. Less than a hundred of the 247 MPs were present on Monday and hence the incomplete quorum.