The federal government on Thursday approved six projects at a cost of Rs98 billion, of which four of them had been revised repeatedly, underscoring poor planning, approval and execution of projects that was denying the intended benefits besides putting additional burden on the public exchequer.
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However, four projects that were approved at a total cost of Rs27.7 billion about a decade ago, have now been given the go-ahead again at a cumulative cost of Rs61.3 billion, an increase of at least Rs33.6 billion, which is more than double the original cost.
Project planning and execution has remained dismal in Pakistan and successive governments have failed to improve the system, resulting in wastage of fiscal resources. No one has been penalised for the ill-planning, approval and execution of the schemes.
The Mandra-Chakwal project had been pushed forward by the then prime minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, for his constituency. The scheme was challenged in court due to violation of rules in the award of contracts.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had also launched an inquiry. The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) initially approved the scheme in September 2012 at a cost of Rs2.7 billion. However, after coming to power, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government approved the project at a revised cost of Rs4.7 billion and then again adjusted the cost upwards to Rs10.1 billion in 2016.
Former PM Ashraf gave the contract to the National Logistics Cell (NLC) in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules. The Islamabad High Court later struck down the award of the contract. However, in competitive bidding, NLC again won the contract by offering the lowest bid.
Now, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has made a third revision, increasing the cost by Rs9.2 billion – 348% higher than the original cost in 2012. Ecnec also approved the Toiwar/Batozai Storage Dam project for Killa Saifullah district, Balochistan at the second-time revised cost of Rs4.9 billion. This project had been initially approved at a cost of Rs2.4 billion.
The Irrigation Department of Balochistan will execute the project. Ecnec directed the government of Balochistan to ensure the completion of the project within the revised scope and cost.
The Naulong Dam project, with the PC-I revised for the second time, was granted, in principle, approval to enable the Economic Affairs Division to start negotiations with the Asian Development Bank for finalising details of project financing, according to the Ministry of Finance. The cost of the Naulong Dam has been increased from Rs11.7 billion in 2009 to Rs28.47 billion.
Ecnec also gave directives for constituting a committee comprising the minister for economic affairs, minister for planning, Privatisation Commission deputy chairman, representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources and the government of Balochistan to discuss issues related to the preparation of revised PC-I of the project. The committee will give its input within two weeks.
The total cultivable command area of the project has been increased from the earlier proposed 9,900 acres to 47,000 acres while the proposed power generation capacity of the project has also been raised.
The technical appraisal section has asked several questions about the hydrology and seismic data of the area where the Naulong Dam is under construction.
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