WASHINGTON (Reuters) Electricity and water projects will be an early priority for nearly $1.5 billion a year in new US nonmilitary aid for Pakistan expected to be passed by the Senate on Sunday, senior US officials said. The aid is included in a $7.5 billion, five-year package proposed by President Barack Obama as one tool to combat extremism in Pakistan. He has called the region the epicentre of violence and Pakistan is seen as critical to US efforts to fight the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. The aid, which some critics in Pakistan see as infringing on the countrys sovereignty, is expected to be passed by the Senate in a larger spending bill on Sunday. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill last week. The funds will be handled differently from previous US civilian aid to Pakistan, with most of it channelled via government and local groups rather than US contractors and humanitarian bodies. That shift has raised concerns among US lawmakers who fear taxpayer dollars may be lost to corruption. Congress has pushed for strict safeguards for the money and the State Department is due to file a report on Monday to key committees on Capitol Hill, outlining how the aid will be spent and detailing controls to curb wastage. There are no blank cheques being handed out, said a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The strategy is to work more through Pakistani organisations and try to support the Pakistani governments efforts to deliver services to its people. The official said Pakistani and international auditors had been sent into about 50 Pakistani government offices, civil society groups and other bodies to conduct pre-award audits, checking that personnel systems, book-keeping and other controls were in place before they could apply for US aid. Several Pakistan experts voiced strong caution over the new approach, pointing to the fragile civilian government. The Obama administration must recognise the pitfalls of working primarily through a civil bureaucracy, which is as averse to democratic reform as its military counterpart, Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group told Congress last week at a hearing to discuss the aid programme. There are also worries about whether the US governments development agency, USAID, can cope with the new aid programme. Serious concerns remain regarding the ability of USAID and the State Department to effectively and efficiently manage and account for such a massive increase in assistance, said Massachusetts Representative John Tierney. However a senior Obama administration official said there were plans over the next year to double the number of USAID workers in Pakistan from the current 80 people and to do the same with local staff too. In addition, USAID intends to open new offices in Lahore and Karachi to provide broader oversight on the aid. The exact mix of aid projects is still under discussion but final decisions are expected soon, said one senior official. Pakistan suffers from rolling power blackouts and a priority will be on boosting electricity and water supplies, with a particular focus on the dilapidated canal system. Other programmes will include health and education as well as improving local and provincial governance and rule of law. The Obama administration hopes giving more control to local NGOs and provincial and government offices over the money, will build up local capacity while easing anti-US sentiment. When the aid was first announced, it was broadly criticised in Pakistan by the media as well as the military, which complained too many conditions were attached to the funds and that it compromised the countrys sovereignty. When the money starts trickling in over the coming months, US officials hope that anger will have subsided and the new funds will start to mend a decades-long trust deficit. It would be disappointing if there were a lot of ire around a programme that is meant to support Pakistani priorities, working in partnership with Pakistan, said one US official.