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    Governance

    MPs reject ministerial explanations on budget

    KABUL (PAN): Another four ministers were unable on Tuesday to satisfy Wolesi Jirga members on their failure to spend development funds during the last fiscal year. A day earlier, as many ministers were caught in a similar situation on the issue.

    Last week, the lower house unanimously decided to call the 14 ministers who had failed to spend less than 40 percent of their budgetary allocations.

    On Tuesday, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, acting Water and Energy Minister Ismail Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Minister Mohammad Asif Rahimi and Information Minister Syed Makhdoom Rahim appeared before the house.

    Zakhilwal said his ministry had expended 57 percent of the $47 million development budget. The percentage was shown less because his ministry had to fund projects related to the Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat, Da Afghanistan Bank and “MASFA” microfinance institution.

    He added the finance ministry only provided funds to the institutions, which implemented the projects themselves. If the funds released to them were included, the spending would rise to 57 percent, he explained.

    Asif Rahmi said the agriculture ministry had spent less than 40 percent of its development budget, but the figure would reach 55 percent if the spending of discretionary funds were calculated.

    Rahimi said of the $119.5 million development budget approved for his ministry, only $64.2 million was discretionary. Some projects in the agriculture sector were executed by donors and the money was not spent through the ministry.

    Rahin said of the $403 million budget released to his ministry, $216 million was discretionary.  He explained his ministry had used 47 percent of the discretionary funds. The Japanese government has pledged 80 million afghanis to the Afghanistan Radio Television (RTA), but the amount is yet to be delivered.

    For his part, the water and energy minister said of the $296 million allocated to his ministry, $88 million was non-discretionary. Ismail Khan said they had spent 47 percent of the discretionary budget. He cited insecurity a hurdle to spending a major part of the allocation.

    Lawmaker Shukria Barakzai, dissatisfied with the explanations, remarked the ministers were making excuses to escape a vote of no-confidence.

    Another MP from western Herat province, Nahid Farid, said some projects could not be completed despite the ministries concerned having discretionary funds. However, the legislator did not go into details of the projects.

    After a prolonged debate, first deputy speaker Haji Abdul Zahir Qadir, who presided over today’s session, said explanations offered by the misters were not acceptable to them because their answers contradicted the final report on budget spending. However, he said nothing about the fate of the summoned ministers.

    Eighty of the 247 MPs were present on Tuesday and hence the incomplete quorum prevented the house from taking a decision on the ministers’ fate.

    ma/mud