ISLAMABAD, Jan 18: The cash-starved government is spending Rs3 billion not to mitigate suffering of the poor but to provide luxurious accommodation facilities to lawmakers.

Under a project, two new blocks would be constructed in the compound of Parliament Lodges which will have 104 family suites for the legislators and 500 quarters for their servants, said Capital Development Authority spokesman Ramzan Sajid on Tuesday.

The project, which is being inaugurated by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday, has been awarded to a construction firm Habib Rafique Limited (HRL), reportedly owned

by a close friend of Mr Gilani.

“The project was awarded to Habib Rafique on Monday on the rates that are 35 per cent above than the estimated cost,” said the authority’s member (engineering) Abdul Jabbar Malano.

A civil engineer working for the CDA said that the rate quoted by the successful bidder was much higher than

35 per cent if it was compared with the prevailing National Highway Authority schedule-2009, which was followed by most of the development authorities in the country.

The new project shows the priority the government accords to plans at a time when all sides in parliament have been calling for austerity and amid demand of the opposition to cut at least 30 per cent government expenditure.

Five firms pre-qualified for the bidding included Habib Rafique Limited (HRL), Shah Zaman, Guarantee Engineers, Associates Constructors Limited, and Mughal Engineering.

At present, Parliament Lodges complex have nine blocks, including seven under the use of parliamentarians and remaining two meant for the administration.

The existing seven residential blocks house 358 family suits against total 442 Senators and MNAs.

Those 84 legislators who do not have suits have been provided rented house in posh residential areas, ministers’ enclave or they are given house rents on monthly basis.

PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq said the government should immediately shelve the project of new blocks of parliament lodges because of prevailing financial crunch confronting the country.

“The project should be dropped even if it is required and this money should be spent on other public welfare schemes to provide job opportunities and overcome power crisis,” he said.

Critics have raised two questions — should the CDA and the government go for such a project aimed at provision of accommodation facilities to parliamentarians who mostly belong
to the privileges class and that why only five firms were involved in the bidding of multi-billion project instead of keep it open for all C-I (no limit) construction firms.

The CDA official ruled out possibilities of any manipulation and favour in the award of the contract.

“All the five firms pre-qualified for the project are no limit construction firms and capable for doing such a big project,” he said.

Initially, the total cost for construction of 104 family suits was put at Rs3.042 billion which later on revised to Rs2.910 billion.

According to details of the project, over and above of the construction cost of the project, additional Rs296.11 million would be spent on furniture and furnishing works of the building that would also have eight lifts to facilitate the lawmakers.