LAHORE: When the PTI Punjab government is supposed to concentrate on the next budget, Secretary Finance Hamid Yakoob Sheikh has reportedly applied for extraordinary (long) leave for unexplained reasons.
The official sources say Mr Sheikh has applied for three-year extraordinary leave and his request is pending a decision with the authorities concerned.
Mr Sheikh is serving as the provincial finance secretary for the last around two-and-a-half years. He had earlier served in the department as its deputy secretary, additional secretary and special secretary for many years, also working in international monetary institutions and Department for International Development’s Sub-National Governance (SNG) programme.
He was posted as the finance secretary by the Shahbaz Sharif government but was retained by the present set-up due to his expertise in public finance as well as the professional conduct.
One of his major tasks had been to attend to troubles arising out of the financial crisis being faced the present government.
He had to face courts on several occasions due to pending liabilities, the officials said who added that one such liability was the non-payment of bills to contractors whom the departments concerned had issued cheques which were not honoured. The officials said it was Mr Sheikh who had to face its consequences.
A senior official of the Punjab government, when asked about the possible reason, said: “Many want side posting, some intend to proceed on leave, provided they are able to get good opportunities elsewhere”.
The current financial crisis was caused, the officials claimed, due to a marked reduction in the collection of provincial taxes and the provincial share. Punjab faced a shortfall of Rs150bn during the current fiscal year, involving the finance secretary to indulge in firefighting.
The officials said that two special secretaries of the finance department had the potential to make the next budget if Mr Sheikh is allowed leave. He could also be replaced but changing the commander in the middle of a war ‘looks a difficult option’.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2019