KP govt to pay forces Rs20m for helicopter operations – by Riaz Khan Daudzai

PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government will pay Rs20 million to the military authorities as charges for the helicopters used in the rescue operations during the flooding that affected 24 districts of the province.

Sources told The News that the provincial government had been approached through the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) in a letter to pay Rs20 million as charges for the 30 helicopters that made over 1,000 trips to the inundated areas during the rescue and relief operations in the province.The sources added that the charges sought from the provincial government would cover the period from July 28, the day the floods first struck Swat and rest of Malakand division, to August 4.

They said the bill for Rs20 million would now be put up to the chief minister for approval as it exceeded the limit, which the PDMA director general and the finance committee formed for the purpose were authorised to sanction. The sources said the committee was authorised to approve amounts up to Rs10 million.

The sources said efforts would be made to pay the bill at the earliest once Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti gives approval. The sources also confirmed that the charges for the eight US Chinook helicopters that were used in the rescue operation in Malakand division and elsewhere in the province during the floods would also be paid by the provincial government. However, they added that the charges for the US choppers would be deducted from the aid the United States had pledged for the flood-affected people.

When contacted, PDMA officials did not confirm they had received the letter, but they pointed out that it would be part of a routine as all the government departments and the institutions have their own rules of hiring and seeking services and equipment against mutually agreed payments.

They said the finance division would do the needful in respect of the charges for the US helicopters, but it was decided in principle that the charges for the Chinooks would be met from the US aid money as the province was not in a position to pay the amount.

To a question, they said the choppers used in the rescue operation did not belong to the charity organisations and they were not supposed to fly free of cost. There would be proper audit of the organisations engaged in the rescue and relief operation and every penny spent on the choppers would also be counted, they added.

A Finance Department official said that payment of an amount on account of helicopter service charges was nothing alarming or illegal as there was a budget allocation for that. Every department sets aside an amount for the emergency services, including helicopter services, and it is reflected in the budget, he said.

Source: The News