The Senate Standing Committee on Planning Development and Special Initiatives in its meeting on Thursday at Parliament House was briefed in detail regarding COVID-19 Pandemic in Pakistan with complete details of allocated funds, equipment and its utilization. The Committee also deliberated over the RBOD II Project and the remaining scope of work.
Chaired by Senator Dr. Asad Ashraf, the meeting was attended by Senator Hidayat Ullah, Senator Engr. Rukhsana Zuberi, Senator Rana Maqbool Ahmed, Senator 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.
While being briefed on the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan regarding complete details of allocated funds, equipment and its utilization, the Committee was informed that the total quantum of committed donors financing for COVID 19 pandemic is USD 483.96 million against the total requirement of USD 595 million indicated in Pakistan preparedness Response Plan (PPRP). Donor funding consisting of loans, grants and in-kind support that included PPEs, Lab consumables, establishment of provincial and district diseases surveillance response units across the country was provided as well. Endeavours to fight against COVID 19 pandemic was provided by the Asian Development Bank in the form of a concessional loan facility amounting USD 200 million. This assistance came in the backdrop of the request of Government of Pakistan to boost its response mechanism. The soft loan for social protection for poor and vulnerable has been extended under the emergency assistance for fighting against COVID 19 Pandemic. This loan was distributed under the Ehsas Emergency Cash Programme. NDMA the lead focal agency for COVID 19 Response informed the Committee that PM allocation was PKR 25.3 billion; expenditures amounted to PKR 13.496 billion. Other donor organizations were ADB and IHITC. 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, 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 Engr. Rukhsana Zuberi, enquired the level of preparedness of the agency and stressed the need to ramp it up to deal with any contingencies in the future. Chairman Committee, Senator Dr. Asad Ashraf asserted that rapid response is imperative to saving lives. It was also asserted that hands-on training of staff serving ICUs is essential especially of those that deal with ventilators and respirators.
Discussing the RBOD 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 previous meetings it was discussed that the project will be handled by the Frontier Works Organization. He said that later it was revealed that certain technical issue were cause of delay. 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. Senator Engr. Rukhsana Zuberi stressed the need to involve the Pakistan Engineering Council. (PEC) She added that a system must be put in place to allow Project Directors e 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.