Bukhari is new FM; Drabu stays firm

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 13:  Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today assigned charge of Finance, Labour and Employment Departments to Education Minister Altaf Bukhari, PDP MLA from Amirakadal in Srinagar district, who immediately after the takeover, kept in abeyance the order pertaining to Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) System, which was one of the major financial reforms undertaken by Dr Haseeb Drabu, till March 31.
Mehbooba, who had yesterday kept the charge of Dr Drabu’s portfolios with her after dropping him from the Cabinet in view of his remarks pertaining to Kashmir problem, today assigned the charge of all Departments including prestigious Finance, Labour and Employment to Altaf Bukhari.

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Bukhari will hold the charge of Finance, Labour and Employment in addition to the Education Department, already assigned to him.
The Chief Minister, however, described handing over of the charge of Finance, Labour and Employment to Altaf Bukhari, as an interim measure.
“In pursuance of Rule 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Government Business Rules and as an interim measure, I, Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister, Jammu and Kashmir, do hereby assign the charge of the Departments of Finance, Labour and Employment to Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari in addition to the Government Business already assigned to him. This is in partial modification of Order No. 427-GAD of 2018 dated 12.3.2018,” an official order issued by the Chief Minister this afternoon said.
After takeover, Altaf Bukhari convened meeting of top officers of the Finance Department and ordered that implementation of Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) System, will be kept in abeyance till March 31, 2018 i.e. the last day of the current financial year of 2017-18 and readiness of the implementation of new system will be reviewed early next financial year before rollout of the System.
“The implementation of Pay and Accounts Office System rolled out vide Government Order No. 43-F of 2018 dated 8.2.2018 is kept in abeyance till 31st March, 2018 in the first place,” an official order issued by Principal Secretary to Government, Finance Department, Navin K Choudhary, said.
Hinting at further delay in implementation of the PAO System, the Government order said the readiness for implementation of the new System will be reviewed before it is rolled out.
“The readiness of stakeholders as well as fool-proof technical platform will be reviewed before rollout of the System early next financial year (FY),” the Government order said.
Prior to the handing over of charge of the Finance Department to Altaf Bukhari, Works Minister and PDP leader Naeem Akhter called on Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh. Later, Dr Singh had half an hour long meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on latest political developments as Drabu was one of the architects of PDP-BJP coalition and Agenda of Alliance.
Sources said there were indications that Altaf Bukhari could become full-time Finance Minister and the charge of Education Department might be given to another PDP Minister later.
The PAO System was considered as one of the major financial reforms undertaken by Dr Haseeb Drabu, who was removed from the Cabinet yesterday after holding charge of the Finance Ministry for nearly three years. The PAO System had to replace the treasury system in Jammu and Kashmir.
Though the PAO System was facing certain problems during end of financial year with liabilities piling up to over Rs 600 crore, the Government had taken some initiatives and announced few relaxations for the current year to clear liabilities. However, the former Finance Minister had made it clear that the new PAO System, which was aimed at ensuring transparency in payments, will be fully implemented by May this year.
The PAO System was being designed in such a way that it meets the future requirements and should be functionally aligned rather than geographically demarcated.
The System was being integrated with Budget Estimation, Allocation & Monitoring System (BEAMS) for better check of budgetary allocation and authorized expenditure.
Commenting on first decision of Altaf Bukhari, Omar tweeted: “the first decision of the new Finance Minister is to reverse a reform this Government had bragged about. Is there more to Haseeb’s dismissal than just his speech”?
Altaf Bukhari had been inducted as Cabinet Minister by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on March 1, 2015 when he took over as head of the PDP-BJP coalition Government and assigned important portfolio of Works. However, after Mufti’s death in January 2016, Mehbooba Mufti, who took over as the Chief Minister in April 2016, didn’t include Bukhari in the Council of Ministry. Mehbooba again included Bukhari as a Cabinet Minister in February 2017 and assigned him the Education Ministry including School and Higher Education Departments.
An Agriculture Graduate, Bukhari is PDP MLA from Amirakadal constituency in Srinagar district.