Making Karachi unsafe

Irregularities in contracts for Karachi safe city project

Editorial February 03, 2018

There is no shortage of attempts to make Karachi safer than it is. Turning a proposal into a reality is however difficult. The National Accountability Bureau has now been — again — called in to investigate one of the largest of the current projects, the Karachi Safe City Project, which is designed to place 100,000 CCTV cameras which were to be installed across the whole of Sindh with 10,000 of them to be installed in Karachi in an attempt to curb street crime. The project was set in motion in 2016 but even before it gets off the ground there are alleged to be irregularities in the way in which the contracts for the projects were awarded.

It appears that the tendering process was — again — anything but transparent and NAB is of the opinion that the project is in ‘anything but safe hands’. Terms and conditions of the contract were altered in order to favour a particular company and other companies in the bidding were not aware that the goal posts had been moved. The project is worth Rs10 billion and NAB has now said that the Sindh government has violated the Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules in the awarding of the contract.

It now seems at least possible that depending on the findings of the NAB investigation the contract may be cancelled and the entire process will go back to square one. Irregularities were evident early on in the process but it is over a year since the first complaint was made — by another bidder. Damningly safe city projects have been initiated in Islamabad and Lahore and although parts of both have yet to be completed they are up and running in both cities. So far as is known there have been no complaints of serious irregularity in either and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Sindh is so broke in terms of governance that fixing it is a distant dream. Another failure and nobody in Karachi is any safer than they were a year ago.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2018.

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