ERRA's wind-up possible only through act of parliament: official (Business Recorder (Pakistan))

The winding up of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) is only possible through an act of the parliament as the body has statutory cover. According to senior government officials, the ERRA was established through an ordinance after October 8, 2005 devastating earthquake which destroyed many cities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Hazara Davison of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP).
There were 78,000 fatalities, hundreds of thousands injured, 600,000 houses destroyed and infrastructure damaged. In August 2013, Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) government decided to disband the authority but due to statutory cover, it could not proceed further.
Sources said that there was a question mark on the future of ERRA in 2011, because it was established for a period of three years. The then President Asif Ali Zardari signed ERRA Act on March 9, 2011, whereby it became a permanent department which is a part and parcel of Prime Minister’s Secretariat. At that time the government also considered introducing a bill and renaming it as National Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (NRRA) with a mandate to work countrywide in case of any natural calamity instead of being limited to KP and AJK.
The government should bring NDMA and ERRA under a ministry instead of keeping it under the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, an official told this correspondent. Due to ongoing military operation in North Waziristan Agency an estimated one million people have been displaced and the government can utilise ERRA’s expertise in rehabilitation and reconstruction of these areas.
Sources said if the government decides to disband ERRA, the regular employees who are working on deputation would return to their home departments but some 700 contractual employees currently engaged with the authority and its allied departments would lose their jobs.
The ERRA was mandated to complete 14,812 projects in quakehit areas and so far has completed 9,824 projects including roads, education institutions (colleges and universities), health facilities including state of the art modern hospitals and water supply schemes. Over the past 9 years it has successfully constructed over 600,000 earthquake resistance houses and within next three months the authority is scheduled to complete the construction of 200 more schools and by December 2015 construction of another 800 schools will be completed for which Prime Minister of Pakistan has allocated Rs 8 billion.
“After the completion of 9,824 projects and construction of 600,000 earthquake resistant houses, the authority won the United Nations’ SASAKAWA Award. Countries including Japan, Turkey and others, where earthquakes strike frequently, are seeking ERRA’s cooperation in dealing with natural calamities,” the officials said.
“National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and ERRA were set up by the act of parliament. Both the entities have different functions in case of natural disasters NDMA in collaboration with provincial governments deals with early recovery and rescue operations, while ERRA’s role is rehabilitation and reconstruction,” the officials added.
The ERRA is just an executing agency enjoying the trust of the international donors and from 2006 to date has worked on rehabilitation and reconstruction of AJ&K and KP. It has spent Rs 220 billion while several countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and China have spent a little over $1 billion with ERRA as the executing agency for their projects.