The Sindh Education Department has allegedly misappropriated Rs. 3.75 billion out of an Rs. 10 billion project. It involved upgradation of 500 primary and post-primary schools that were devoid of basic amenities.
The education department has extended the deadline for the project’s completion but has failed to reveal the particulars of funds spent so far.
The World Bank had awarded $20.8 million for the project in 2017, and it was kickstarted in the same year. It was originally scheduled to complete in December 2018.
According to the Education Secretary, Shahid Pervez, the project was divided into two phases. In the first phase, 10 out of 12 schemes were completed by December 2018 and the remaining were expected to be complete soon.
However, the secretary was unable to provide details of the expenditure or the schools that have been renovated. The project was started on the orders of the Chief Minister to improve the education sector of Sindh.
It was planned to start with the schools that have the highest enrollment, located in densely populated areas. Given the high enrollment rate, it was an urgent need to upgrade these schools to post-primary institutions.
According to the education dept. , 68 percent of the 4.2 million students are studying in only 24 percent of the primary schools in Sindh.
Earlier, the education department identified 4,650 schools that need upgrades. Among those, 3,890 schools were selected under the program. The department’s records revealed that 998,202 students got enrolled in these schools.
The number of schools was further reduced to 2,885 schools, which was still higher than 2500 recommended by the World Bank.
Schemes Under Project
According to the Education Works department’s estimate, the cost of upgrading the schools was Rs. 2.43 billion. The department was going to use this amount to build 9,582 classrooms, boundary walls, roofs, and washrooms among other things.
Rs. 8 billion were further required for repairs and maintenance in these schools. The engineers of the department prepared the project proposals, PC-1s, after estimation and field surveys as well.
After completing the due procedure, the Sindh Education and Literacy Department approved 29 schemes in February 2018. The finance department also gave confirmation in the next month and released Rs. 3,750 million on March 27, 2018.
A few months later, the Sindh Public Procurement Authority (SPPRA) issued a notice to all the executive engineers. It asked for details of the tender notices issued for the vehicles’ purchase, the schools’ names they have been purchased against, and details of the work carried out in the respective schools.
However, many executive engineers could not provide the requisite details of individual schools. They had clubbed together several schools in a scheme and then listed the expenses as part of it.
The documents did not list the school names or the details of expenditure incurred on their upgrade. This impacts the transparency and restricts open competition in the project, as noted by the regulatory authority.
A representative of Transparency International has approached the Supreme Court regarding the issue, seeking details of the tender.
Education Secretary Shahid Pervez maintains that the project has been successful.
“Other than the money given by the World Bank, the Sindh Government has also allocated Rs. 8 billion for the aforementioned project so that the education sector of the province can be improved and dependence on the World Bank can be avoided,” said Pervez.
“The World Bank had asked to improve 2,500 schools in the province but the Sindh government took care of 2632 schools,” he added.