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Senate body says CDA, PIERA hiding facts




A Senate panel on Wednesday accused the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and school registration body Pakistan Educational Institutions of Islamabad (PIERA) of hiding facts surrounding private schools in Islamabad and sought five-year audits of certain schools.

The Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat met on Wednesday to follow up on its meeting earlier this month to review status of private schools and their fee structures in Islamabad Capital Territories ICT). However, none of their concerns were effectively addressed.

PIERA told the panel, chaired by Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood, that as many as 1,069 private schools were registered with them in Islamabad. Of these, 977 schools are being run in residential buildings, 17 in commercial buildings and only 75 were in purpose-built facilities. However, the CDA said that there were just 450 private schools in the federal capital.

On this, Mehmood and other members of the panel exclaimed that facts were being concealed from the committee.

Mehmood asked PEIRA to present five-year audit reports of eight private schools in the capital including Headstart School, Islamabad International School, Preparatory School Islamabad, Roots Schools (Roots International and Roots Millennium), Pak-Turk International School, Lahore Grammar School, Sheikh Zayed Academy and Beaconhouse School System. They also sought details of charity schools who had been allotted land.

Senator Osman Saifullah Khan sought information on turnover rates of private schools, salaries of their teachers and the taxes paid by school owners.

While insisting that fee structures of private schools should be adjusted or lowered as per directives of the government, Senator Najma Hameed compared educational standards and fee structures of private schools to other reputed educational institutions of the country such as Cadet College Hassan Abdal and Abbottabad Public School.

Referring to the international schools in the capital, Senator Kamil Ali Agha said that they were charging exorbitant fees in dollars. He asked what facilities were the schools providing to students and what facilities were being provided by the government.

On the question of taxes, Federal Bureau of Revenue’s Income Tax Policy chief Vishnu Raja said that currently schools and educational institutions are supposed to pay tax at a rate of 33 per cent. This is expected to decrease to 32 per cent next year and will be as low as 30 per cent by 2017.

Members of panel condemned the fact that the government had allocated Rs2 billion for security of private schools, but nothing had been done in this regard.

Asking about moving schools out of residential areas, CDA was directed to ensure educational activities were not affected.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2015.

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