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Tales of a corrupted Park & Ride plaza

Chief Minister’s Investigation Team calls inquiry, contracts awarded at double the market rates, supporting documents not supplied to CMIT; LDA DG stops inquiry two days ago to hush up matter

LAHORE – A mega corruption scandal has surfaced in Liberty Park and Ride Plaza, the brainchild of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, pointing to massive corruption in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Pakistan Today has learnt. The scam revolves around the revision of the plaza’s construction cost to Rs 677.475 million bypassing rules and regulations.

The claims being investigated are the sanctioning of Rs 13 million and then Rs 24 million to purchase technical gear without fulfilling the procedural requirements, selecting contractors against the terms of reference, supplying an incomplete record to the CM’s Secretariat and a willful denial to attend the inquiry conducted by the CM’s Inspection Team. The controversy-ridden Liberty Park and Ride Plaza is already in trouble. A case is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC) submitting that the Park and Ride Plaza has been construction on land originally owned by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) for development of a public park, which could not be handed over to the LDA for construction of the said plaza.

LHC Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed also sought the original map of the land from LDA. Even before start of the construction, traders and environmentalists had disapproved of the project. Hushing it up: With a view to hushing the matter up, LDA Director General (DG) Abdul Jabbar Shaheen stopped the inquiry two days ago, which was initiated with office order No LDA/ADMN/ENQ/Q&M/3895/1339 under PEEDA against TEPA Chief Engineer Saifur Rehman, TEPA Director Israr Saeed and TEPA Deputy Director Majid Rashid.

The LDA DG issued a letter stating that as the matter was being probed by a committee headed by Najam Saeed, secretary special education, and as the report of the CMIT with respect to this building had not been finalised yet, the inquiry under PEEDA be postponed ended until the outcome of the inquiry. According to contents of the CMIT report available with Pakistan Today, Shahbaz approved the proposal to construct the Park and Ride Plaza but LDA, instead of placing the scheme before the designated committee for scrutiny, administratively approved it by sanctioning Rs 499.916 million against the rules.

LDA again revised its approved cost without referring it to the proper forum to Rs 677.475 million, including cost of civil work, which was increased from Rs 294 million to 391 million, electrical installation from Rs 37 million to 116 million. HVAC from Rs 18 million to 41 million and other costs from Rs 13.6 million to 15 million without any cogent reason. The report said that the approved scope of work included construction of eleven floors consisting of three commercial floors and eight floors for parking 290 cars, a rooftop restaurant, capsule lifts, HVAC and electrification. But LDA did not hand over the complete record of the scheme.

“TEPA Chief Engineer Saifur Rehman, Director Israr Saeed and Deputy Director Majid Rashid were asked five times to present the same for discussion but no one turned up,” the CMIT report said.

No proper approvals: It said that the scheme was split into two packages: structure work of Rs 109 million and architectural work of Rs 339 million without proper approval of the competent authority. The CMIT report revealed that the contractors were pre-qualified by LDA instead of the committee announced by the Punjab Planning and Development Department. “While granting revised administrative approval, the brand of capsule elevators was downgraded from European to Korean with increased cost, no fresh tenders for additional scope of work were invited but the original agreement was enhanced without obtaining extra cost of tenders and earnest money,” the report said.

The report said that 10 percent of performance security had not been obtained from the contractor in violation of government instructions and agreement thus giving undue financial benefits to the contractor. “Five percent of departmental charges provided in the approved PC-I are unjustified. Provision of 5.5 percent of cost for consultancy (3.5 percent for design and 2 percent for supervision) is also very high. The layout of the building was always carried out by the client and consultants have paid Rs 0.1 million to the contractor in violation of the standards procedure.

Both the contracts have been awarded at higher rates than the prevailing market rates and rates offered by other nation-building departments, ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent, were awarded for architectural work but could not be analysed as supporting documents were not supplied by TEPA despite repeated requests,” the report revealed.

The CMIT report smoked out the facts that the scheme originally costing Rs 38.221 million was intentionally divided into two parts amounting to Rs 13.395 million and Rs. 24.826 million respectively to keep it within the approving power of the LDA DG to avoid its due scrutiny by the designated authority. The technical sanction was accorded by adding up two approvals to award work for the full amount in violation of rules.

Unnecessary laptops: “Instead of making use of the available stock of desktop computers, 77 laptops have been purchased with no justification. One 13.1 laptop for Rs 0.14 million and 76 laptops for Rs 98,000 each, exclusive of 16 percent GST, have been procured at much higher price than the prevailing market rates, causing a loss to the government exchequer. Unrealistic and exorbitant rates have been provided for various other items in IS estimates,” the report explained.

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