Ministers claim spending over 50pc of funds
KABUL (PAN): Four ministers on Monday appeared before the Wolesi Jirga, lower of parliament, insisting they had utilised more than half of development funds allocated to them in the 2011 annual budget.
Lawmakers accuse 11 ministers of failing to spend 50 percent of allocations meant for development activities in 2011.
They summoned the ministers last year to explain their positions, but only seven of them turned up, with the rest staying away despite warnings of no-confidence motions.
On Monday, Information and Culture Minister Syed Makhdoom Raheen, Minister of Economy Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Commerce Minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi and Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani appeared before the house.
Arghandiwal said his ministry had been given $11.5 million for development schemes in 2011. He added the allocations included a non-discretionary sum of $2.3 million that had been spent on salaries to advisors.
The economy ministry introduces advisors to other ministries and pays their salaries. Arghandiwal said his ministry had money left over from projects as some mega schemes, including the database system, were executed with assistance from donor countries in 2011.
He also said his ministry had initiated some projects in 2011 but they were completed in 2013, insisting they had used 67 percent of development budget. While Mines Minister Shahrani said 32.8 million of the 61.3 million allocated to his ministry for development activities was discretionary. He said the rest of funds were allocated to 18 medium and small projects.
He said the non-discretionary allocation included nearly $25 million that the mines ministry had not yet received from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop an oil and gas field in Shiberghan.
He also said the Asian Development Bank had also pledged $3.5 million for the rehabilitation and cleanliness of four oil wells in Shiberghan, but the ministry was yet to receive the amount.
Shahrani said his ministry had spent 53.7 percent of its development funds and that the percentage had been confirmed by the Ministry of Finance.
For his part, Commerce and Industries Minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi said his ministry had to complete four mega projects in 2011. The projects included construction of business centres that were estimated to cost $4.3 million pledged by the World Bank, he said.
He explained the Work Bank was yet to deliver the fund to the Afghan government, but the amount had been mentioned in the ministry budget.
He said another major project was the construction of new marketplaces, a process that began late 2011. He said the project received $175,000 instead of $2 million.
Ahadi said the third project was industrial parks in eastern Nangahar province, but the scheme had been stopped by the Attorney General Office.
He said a park for carpet production could not be completed because the Urban Development Ministry failed to timely complete the design and provide other related facilities.
He did not specifically mention how much development funds his ministry had used, but said the overall spending from discretionary allocations stood at 68 percent in 2011.
Similarly, Information and Culture Minister Syed Makhdoom Raheen told lawmakers his ministry had received 15.4 million on the account of development schemes. The ministry spent 51 percent of the discretionary funds amounting to $6.1 million in 2011, he said, adding some funds could not be used because of foreign assistance for the same projects.
But Auditor General Sharifullah Sharifi told the house his department had proofs and documents showing less than 50 percent development funds had been used.
He said some ministers were right in their claims, but the fact could be ascertained only when the audit department and the house finance and budget commission worked jointly on the subject.
Sharifi said other ministers were speaking in contradiction to the final reports on budget spending they had submitted to the Ministry of Finance.
He said the debate should have involved the finance minister who could provide better information about explanations given by the summoned ministers.
Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said he had formally asked the finance minister to appear before the house, but he did not turn up and instead sent his deputy, who the lawmakers did not allow speak.
Water and Energy Minister Ismail Khan, Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak and Counternarcotics Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbil have been summoned for Wednesday.
Higher Education Minister Obaidullah Obaid, Urban Development Minister Hassan Abdulhai, Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang and Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi are to appear on April 6.
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