Rented office space for ministries costs Rs1 billion yearly

Delay in completion of federal secretariat building puts dent in public purse


Riazul Haq October 23, 2017
PHOTO: Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The delay in completion of federal secretariat complex, which is supposed to house several ministries, is costing the government dearly as it has to pay Rs1 billion rent every year for their accommodation.

Work on the building started in 2007 and was supposed to be completed within 36 months, but after a passage of nearly 10 years the project was still under construction.

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According to the documents of Ministry of Housing and Works, currently over 13 ministries, divisions and their attached departments are renting properties occupying a total of 24,859-square metres of office space in the capital.

Divisions ranging from aviation, textile, privatisation, strategic export control, narcotics, information and broadcasting to the national food security and research are among the units being housed in rented buildings, stated the documents.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has rented a 5,200 square-metre office in Melody Market, which is the largest rented government office in the capital, they further revealed.

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Official record of the ministry revealed that about Rs1 billion was annually spent on the hired buildings and “insufficient space does not provide an environment conducive enough to properly and efficiently work besides lack of security measures”.

The government in 2007 hired a construction company on contract basis to build a single block comprising two basements, ground floors along with nine floors covering an area of 769,200-square feet on Constitution Avenue, the documents stated, adding that 10 years had passed still the elevators, heating, ventilation and air conditioning system had yet to be installed.

The original cost of the building was Rs1.1 billion which reached Rs5 billion in the revised cost, the papers stated.

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As of late, there was a tussle between ministries to occupy space in that building as the old federal secretariat blocks constructed in 1970s were in a dilapidated condition.

The old federal secretariat also houses several ministries ranging from the interior ministry to the Ministry of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs. They are all vying to get space in the new building.

Audit report

Apart from the delay factor, the auditor general of Pakistan has unearthed several irregularities in construction of the federal secretariat building.

The financial losses to national exchequer in terms of rent and construction of the project have become a serious concern for the government so much that the auditor general of Pakistan has held a special audit of the project and summed it up in a separate 65-page report.

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The audit details recently shared with the National Assembly speak volumes of the lethargic way the project was carried out and how millions were wasted or lost in overpayments.

The auditor observed that despite delay work could not be completed and the national exchequer had to bear the burden of rent which comes to approximately Rs1 billion besides wear and tear of the already completed work.

“Audit holds that loss occurred due to bad planning and lack of coordination among stakeholders,” it stated.

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The audit also revealed that civil work cost 72% higher as compared to the revised PC-1 cost, while plumbing was 106% higher and electrical work 121%.

The auditors observed that the design of the ceiling was defective as at three entry points of the building the ceiling had either collapsed or deteriorated due to wind and rain even before it was even made operational.

None of the officials of the Ministry of Education were available for comment, while the secretary and minister did not respond despite repeated attempts.

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