Pay up or pack up: Over rent default, 28 food park shops’ licences cancelled

Published: November 25, 2013

"Some 16 shops have been sealed so far following the cancellation of licenses,” CDA Municipal Administration Director Hamza Shafqat said. DESIGN: ANAM HALEEM

ISLAMABAD: 

City managers are endeavouring to restore the fast-fading attraction of Melody Food Park in Sector G-6.

Unhygienic conditions and substandard food — with an abundance of cat-sized rats in the food court area — have contributed to deterioration of the popular eating venue.

Under its revenue enhancement plan and to restore the interest of foodies, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is considering revamping the whole food street.

“The licences of 28 shops in the food street have been cancelled after the licence holders failed to pay Rs13 million on account of monthly rent. Some 16 shops have been sealed so far following the cancellation of licenses,” CDA Municipal Administration Director Hamza Shafqat said.

The shops would now be made available in an open auction, he added.

“Out of 32, some 28 license holders have not paid a single penny to the CDA as rent for their shops for the past five years,” he said, adding that the situation resulted in piling up of audit paras which have been discussed at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The PAC had also directed the CDA to take appropriate action against violators and the current drive has been initiated with that in mind, Shafqat said.

In the past, some 32 shops at the food street were allegedly given to well-connected parites including journalists without an open competition. Monthly rents ranged from Rs8,000 to Rs18,000.

According to sources within the CDA, there are plans that the civic agency, after cancelling the licenses of all the shops, planned to award the contract for the entire food street to a single firm of international repute so that the area was better managed with improved quality.

However, Shafqat negated the impression, saying the shops would be offered in line with Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules that provides for open competition among interested firms.

“The CDA wants to make the arrangement profitable for the civic agency and shop owners alike and a place of enjoyment for the public,” Shafqat said.

The Melody Food Street committee is also alleged to have misappropriated funds generated through advertising sites at the food court.

Melody Food Park was established in Melody Market in 2003. In the beginning, the area attracted food lovers from the twin cities, but over time, it lost its charm due to substandard food, poor seating and the lack of a proper parking area, along with competition from eateries in other areas.

The parking area of the market vanished after local traders allowed construction of a mosque in an area reserved for a car park. After the construction of the mosque, it became an ordeal to find space to park one’s car in the busy commercial area.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2013.

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