The Senate Standing Committee on Planning Development and Special Initiatives was informed on Thursday that the total quantum of committed donors financing for Covid-19 was $483.96 million against the requirement of $595 million indicated in the Pakistan Preparedness Response Plan, reflecting a shortfall of $111.04 million.
The standing committee, which met at the Parliament House under the chairmanship of Senator Dr Asad Ashraf, was briefed in detail regarding the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan with complete details of allocated funds, equipment and its utilisation.
The meeting was attended by Senators Hidayatullah, Engr Rukhsana Zuberi, Rana Maqbool Ahmed, Gianchand and senior officers from the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives along with all concerned. Representatives of the Ministry of National Health Services Coordination and Reforms, Finance, EAD, NDMA and Department of Irrigation, Sindh were also present.
The committee was informed that donor funding consisting of loans, grants and in-kind support that included PPE, lab consumables, establishment of provincial and district diseases surveillance response units across the country were provided as well.
It was told that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a concessional loan facility of $200 million to fight against the pandemic. This assistance came in the backdrop of the request of the government of Pakistan to boost its response mechanism, the committee was apprised. The soft loan for social protection for poor and vulnerable has been extended under the emergency assistance for fighting against Covid-19. This loan was distributed under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – the lead focal agency for Covid-19 response – informed the committee that the prime minister allocated Rs25.3 billion while the expenditures amounted to Rs13.496 billion. “Other donor organisations were ADB and Isolation Hospital and Infectious Treatment Centre (IHITC).”
The NDMA member operations said that major supplies distributed nationwide included face masks, N-95 type masks, protective suits, goggles, face shields, latex/nitrile/surgical gloves, ventilators, portable X-ray machines, PCR lab machines, etc. “The basic challenges faced by the agency included lack of domestic manufacturing capacity, demand and supply gap, hoarding of essential supplies and movement of goods and services hampered due to lockdown.”
Senator Rukhsana inquired about the level of preparedness of the agency and stressed the need to ramp it up to deal with any contingencies in the future.
Committee Chairman Senator Ashraf asserted, “Rapid response is imperative to saving lives. Hands-on training of staff serving in ICUs is essential, especially of those who deal with ventilators and respirators.”
Discussing the Right Bank Outfall Drain-II project, the committee was informed that this project began in 2001 and since then has been in the lurch.
Senator Gianchand said that in the previous meetings it was discussed that the project will be handled by the Frontier Works Organisation.
He said that later it was revealed that certain technical issues were the cause of delay, adding that frequent change of project directors is another major issue that stalls the project.
The committee was apprised that a third party audit is being conducted to ascertain the cause of delay.
Rukhsana stressed the need to involve the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), adding that a system must be put in place to allow project directors to evaluate and monitor projects on a regular basis. The committee decided that the PEC must be engaged along with other stakeholders to assess the status of the project in detail and report back to the committee on the issues and solutions to expedite the work towards completion.