–PTI govt ‘creates financial hurdles’ for reforms unit owing to hefty salaries
–Former SRU DG says his unit worked more than it was paid
LAHORE: Several noteworthy projects of the former chief minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit (SRU), which targeted the welfare of women, senior citizens and public welfare while receiving international fame, have been halted and stonewalled by the new government, Pakistan Today learnt reliably.
Sources informed this scribe that the SRU, which was established by PML-N government, is facing administrative and financial hurdles as the budgets are not being released.
As per the details, the SRU was established in 2014 as per the former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif’s direction to propose and implement strategic interventions in key areas such as social reforms, law & order, and women empowerment.
The SRU was headed by Director General (DG) Salman Sufi and assisted by a staff of six members while the team had conceptualised and implemented more than thirty impact-driven reforms.
Pakistan Today learnt that the SRU was working on women centric reforms, social reforms, police reforms, motor vehicle & transport reforms and traffic reforms under which the projects being carried out and designed included Violence Against Women Centers (VAWCs), Punjab Women Protection Authority, Women-on-Wheels, Street Theatre Campaign, Women Safety Smart Phone Application, Punjab Shehar-e-Khamoshan Authority, Mobile & On-Ground (Container) Libraries, Protection of Senior Citizens, Rights of Transgender, Restaurant Grading System, Local Eye Smart Phone Application, Executive Security Branch, U-report website, Automated Intrusion Elimination Protocol, Dealer Vehicle Registration System, Centralisation & Modernisation of Excise & Taxation, specialty/custom plates, ANPR-readable standardised license plates, token tax stickers, traffic reforms and Punjab Driving Education Centers.
Sources informed Pakistan Today that the previous DG Salman Sufi was also removed from the office in July 2018, adding that one of the reasons the government was not paying attention to these projects could have been the huge salaries.
The salaries drawn by the staff members included, Rs 1,200,000 by the DG, Rs 300,000 by the SRU’s senior officer, Rs 200,000 by the analytical assistant, Rs 125,000 by the junior associate and 80,000 by the SRU’s resident associate, according to sources.
Sources told this scribe said that as per the orders of the Supreme Court chief justice, the salaries had to be checked and made according to the government policy and the government might be in the process of revising the structure and salaries of the SRU to carry on with the projects.
Sources told Pakistan Today that most of the projects had been launched by the SRU like Violence Against Women Centers (VAWC), Shehar-e-Khamoshan Authority, Women-on-Wheels, Protection of Senior Citizens and these also got international recognition whereas some of the projects were in pipeline and others were half cooked.
The officials were of the view that the projects met difficulty because of the tussle between technocracy and bureaucracy as there were several questions being raised on the salaries and working of the unit.
‘SRU PROVIDED GOOD INITIATIVE’:
A female officer who was trained for the women on wheels and given a motorcycle by the previous government was of the view that it was a good initiative and aimed at bringing a reform in the society and also changing the people’s mindsets. If such projects were not carried forward it will be surely a loss for the society to move ahead and empower women, she added.
A senior citizen and retired school teacher Abdul Qayyum was of the view that the reforms for senior citizens were need of the hour as the facilities for senior citizens in Pakistan lacked. He added that if SRU was working on the legislation for the protection of Senior Citizens in Punjab it should be supported by the government.
Talking exclusively with Pakistan Today the ex-Director General of SRU Salman Sufi said that the SRU was established under the I&C Wing, Services & General Administration Department and was tasked to conceptualize and introduce various reforms in collaboration with Government Departments.
“The SRU has spearheaded the conceptualisation of multiple reforms in the following areas: women’s empowerment and protection, excise & taxation, law & order as well as social reform. Moreover, SRU is mandated with the conceptualisation of projects as well as assistance in their implementation, however since SRU itself is not an administration department it does not hold the power to direct execution of projects. The budget of each project conceptualised by SRU is allocated to the relevant Administrative Government Department for that project and placed in Annual Development Program” Sufi added.
‘SEVERAL MEMBERS RESIGNED’:
On inquiring about the resignation of staff despite drawing handsome salaries he said, “Only three staff members were present in the SRU as rest of them had resigned. They did not want to continue as my contract was also not being renewed rather they were disappointed on how I was being treated despite working hard. The selection board and committee had approved my extension but caretakers and some officers purposely denied my extension due to closely working with former chief minister.”
While commenting on the huge salary package Sufi was of the view, “SRU was not the only project with higher salaries but SRU was the only project where employees volunteered for years before they took the salary. I worked free for two years but took salary for one year; my team also did the same.
“The bureaucracy knows well that SRU worked more than it was paid. That’s a fact and we should be paid even more for the work we did. Also, if the bureaucracy powers and perks were given to SRU we would be happy to take less salary,” he added.
“SRU was working on almost 30 projects. The hiring for Women Protection Authority is not yet done as the caretaker government stonewalled it. It was running with two persons only and the new government has also not started its hiring. The projects of motor registration are working great as I got the laws approved for motor vehicle ordinance amendment and it included universal plates, customized plates and automotive registration card. The projects of SRU are unique and I hope the new government would not interrupt these projects,” Sufi concluded.