The Ministry of Communications fears delays and cost escalation in road projects for integral parts of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, owing to further cost-cutting and smaller fund releases under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
The estimated cost of road projects carried by the National Highway Authority (NHA) is around Rs. 1.5 trillion and a massive escalation is feared, if the government further delays funds or cuts them, revealed senior officials while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Communications which met with Senator Hidayat Ullah in the chair on Wednesday.
“During the last quarter of last fiscal year as well as followed by two months, no money was released under the PSDP to NHA, while only Rs. 8 billion were released in the following two months against the demand of Rs. 25 billion”, said Chairman NHA Jawwad Rafique Malik, adding that during the latest quarter (current) government released over Rs. 25 billion against the demand of Rs. 41 billion.
Chairman NHA’s stance was endorsed by Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Secretary Communications, while saying that any further cut or delay in fund releases would delay the projects and escalate the costs.
The committee expressed serious concerns over the delay while saying that the pace of work is very slow or next to none. Chairman NHA admitted to the slow pace of work while saying that due to the short or no-releases, the pace of work was slow, but is expected to be overcome with good releases.
The officials as well as the parliamentarians, while observing the situation, recommended raising the matter at a higher level and asking Secretary Finance and Secretary Planning to brief the committee in the next meeting.
Chairman NHA informed the committee that against the revised PSDP allocation of Rs. 112.99 billion under the head of the local component, NHA utilized Rs. 28.73 billion by December 2018. However, against the Rs. 72.2 billion foreign components, NHA utilized Rs. 93.8 billion, thanks to China for timely releases, he added.
He further said that China is currently financing two projects under CPEC including Havelian-Thakot and Multan-Sukkur which would be completed well on time i.e. by February 2020 and August 2019 respectively.
He further said that NHA is planning to take Sukkur-Haiderabad—part of CPEC on a Built Operate Transfer (BOT) basis. Further, the next two projects which are at the top of the priority list to be included in CPEC are Yarik-D.I.Khan – Zhob and Khuzdar – Basima.
The committee also discussed a point of public importance regarding payment to the landowner whose land was acquired for the construction of the road from Kaghan to Babusar top, raised by Senator Lt. Gen. ® Salahuddin Tirmizi in the Senate on 18.12.2018.
Tirmizi informed the committee that section 4 has been imposed in the area for the last 18 years, but landowners are not being paid compensation.
NHA informed that Land Acquisition Collector, CPEC (Havelian-Thakot Section) Abbottabad has been assigned the additional charge of the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkad Road and the case of the land acquisition is being dealt with and is likely to be settled shortly.
The proceedings got delayed due to frequent posting/transfers of Land Acquisition Collectors (LAC) and an amount of Rs. 164 million has already been transferred to the respective District Treasury.
The project for widening of Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhed (MNJ) road was carried out by NHA. Initially, land measuring 7978 Kanals & 12 Marlas was notified under Section-4 of Land Acquisition Act (LAA)-1894. However, a corrigendum Notification was issued as per actual requirement of land measuring 1698 Kanal & Marlas.
The then LAC (NAs) had already initiated a case for funds to conclude land acquisition proceedings and an amount of Rs. 164 million had been transferred to the respective District Treasury. The proceedings got delayed due to posting/transfer of the LAC.
Recently, LAC (CPEC-Havelian-Thakot Section) Abbottabad has been assigned additional charge and he has again processed the case for completion of land acquisition and disbursement of compensation, which is likely to be completed shortly.
The committee constituted a sub-committee and directed to report within one month to resolve the matter, besides directing NHA chairman to form a fact-finding committee and conduct an inquiry to reach the officials involved in the matter.