Amid allegations of pre-poll rigging, an adamant federal government cleared on Thursday two projects, valued at Rs9.4 billion, for Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s constituency.
The move comes just a few months ahead of the next general elections and despite a ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan on the use of taxpayers’ money for political gains.
The ‘unavailability’ of Central Development Working Party (CDWP) chairman Dr Nadeem ul Haque, who also happens to be the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, did not stop the rather hasty government from summoning a meeting of the party and approving15 schemes worth a total of Rs22.3 billion.
The CDWP approved two road projects – Mandra and Chakwal Road and Sohawa to Chakwal Road, confirmed Planning Secretary Hasan Nawaz Tarir, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Dr Haque. He added that the deputy chairman was under the weather and insisted that in his absence, the secretary or any member of the Planning Commission could chair the meeting.
The federal government has, in the name of development projects, already doled out Rs37 billion for the premier’s constituencies under the PM’s discretionary funds.
Despite Haque’s reservations over calling a meeting due to the ECP’s ban, he avoided giving an impression of the existence of differences over the issue. “I was sick,” said Haque in a brief response. However, it may be pointed out that the meeting could have been delayed until he recovered.
The government had awarded both road contracts to the National Logistic Cell, by showing less than the actual cost in the original request for funds. Therefore, it now plans to divert funds from existing projects to pay for the additional Rs3.5 billion needed for these schemes – a move that violates the ECP’s ban.
The CDWP has a mandate to approve projects that cost up to Rs1 billion for the endorsement of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council.
Furthermore, during the meeting, the CDWP deferred a third project of the prime minister’s – the Gojar Khan COMSAT Institute – after it found its cost of Rs96 million too high.
Meanwhile, it deferred all the schemes of PPP Central Punjab President Mian Manzoor Wattoo after discovering serious flaws in the PC-Is. Wattoo allegedly did not send the working papers in advance to keep some suspect things a secret.
Development schemes in Wattoo’s constituency in Punjab include a carpeted road from Depalpur to Basirpur worth Rs935 million, one from Depalpur Road to Head Sulemanki worth Rs1.97 billion and another from Jamber to Sulemanki worth Rs3.9 billion.
The Planning Commission secretary, however, said that the CDWP did not reject the schemes and had rather only deferred them.
He added that two schemes required cost rationaliasation, while a no objection certificate was missing from the third scheme.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2013.