The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is on the verge of “bankruptcy” due to non-provision of funds for Public Sector Development Projects (PSDP) which, as speculated, would now be transferred to the relief work of flood affected areas.

Talking exclusively to The News, HEC Chairman Javed Leghari conceded that they were soon going to be bankrupt if the authorities fail to release money for its various PSDP projects.

“It would be a great national loss as we could spend Rs15 billion merely on the construction of roads but could not spend Rs10 to 15 billion on education sector. What is the big deal if five to ten billion are added to the current financial deficit of around Rs980 billion,” he said.

According to information, for the financial year 2010-11 only Rs15.762 were allocated to HEC against the agreed amount of Rs30 billion. Out of this allocation, requirement of scholarship for students already on board is around Rs9.50 billion. As many as 61 projects completing this year need around 0.8 billion. Projects that have been completed by 80-90 percent require additional Rs3.5 billion for completion. In this financial year there are currently 203 active ongoing projects for different HEC institutions.

According to the latest information, the HEC is going to face another major cut in already approved Rs15.7 billion where the authorities are making excuse of the huge money that they need to spend for the relief work of earthquake affected areas while Federal Minister for Education Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali also admitted that very fact in a conference on Tuesday.

Javed Leghari while talking to this correspondent lamented the non-serious attitude of the government towards the education sector and said that it was a matter in which government should never have compromised. “Every country even Saudi Arabia is shifting from resource-based economy to knowledge-based economy but in our country the situation is altogether different,” he said.

He said the universities hoped that funds would be released to them and they continued working on their various projects but received nothing which has put them in an awkward situation. “The universities face a default of around Rs5 billions which they have to pay to the contractors but have no money with them,” he added.

Leghari said that it was not the first time that HEC has been treated in such a manner by the authorities but previously it has happened many times. “The current budget approved this time at first did not include the money for the projects which were 80 to 90 percent completed. We then asked Finance Division to include those projects too after which the funds were re allocated and transferred to those projects which were nearing completion,” he said.

He also smells a rat in the procedure to be adopted by the Finance Division for funds to be given to HEC through Kerry Lugar Act. “It’s a big challenge to get those funds too as Finance Division will be trying to include it in already approved Rs15.7 billion while giving no extra money,” he said.

He said that what they want was the additional money besides the already approved Rs15.7 billion as it was the only way that could prevent the Commission from becoming bankrupt. “The same lies with the funding by USAID where the Finance Division wants to include it in the already approved budget but we want it besides the approved money,” he added.

It is worth mentioning that 22 approved projects worth Rs6 billion have been already deleted by the Planning Commission of Pakistan while not a single penny has been released so far from the budget allocation of Rs15.7 billion for the year 2010-11 while 48 projects have been deferred.

The News