HYDERABAD: Reiterating the Supreme Court's (SC) order, the judicial commission on water and sanitation has declared the public health engineering department responsible for operation and maintenance of all the schemes executed by the department.
The commission ordered implementation of the apex court's judgment, which settled the controversy between the public health engineering department and local bodies regarding maintenance of the projects constructed by the former.
"No further orders on that score are required," the commission's head, Justice (retd) Amir Hani Muslim, stated in the eight-page order issued on Friday.
He noted that during his visits to several districts of Sindh, many projects completed by the public health engineering department appeared inoperative due to the row over maintenance between the two departments. "The SC has clarified that the executing department shall maintain the schemes on completion."
The public health engineering department informed the commission during a January 20 hearing that some 800 water supply schemes built by the department in Sindh are not functional due to controversy over maintenance.
Justice (retd) Muslim directed Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon to make all the schemes completed by the department operational within a week.
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"The department will be entitled to operation and maintenance with additional manpower to be provided by the Sindh government." The chief secretary assured that the departmental promotion committee will meet soon and posting orders against the vacant posts in the department will be issued by February 20.
The commission noted that the employees of the Hyderabad Development Authority, Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and other development authorities in some districts are deprived of salaries and pensions for several months. "An undertaking was given by the local government secretary that the employees of Wasa would be disbursed salaries and pension within a week, but this has yet to be done."
Justice (retd) Muslim cited contentions of the local government department and the heads of these authorities. The former argued that the authorities are responsible for their revenue generation and payment of salaries and pensions. The latter claims that tens of billions of rupees remain outstanding against Sindh and federal governments in utility bills, while also citing low recovery.
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"In the given circumstance...the [Sindh] finance department is directed to adjust salary and pension of the employees at source by adjusting the outstanding [amount payable to the authorities] of different government departments," the commission ordered. The provincial government will have to directly deposit the salary and pension in the employees' bank accounts instead of handing over a sum of money to the authorities for forward payment.
Justice (retd) Muslim extended a similar order for paying salaries and pensions to regular and contractual staff of the municipal bodies directly into their bank accounts. "This practice will keep vigilance on the working of the municipal and town committees. Besides this, they will be made accountable for the amounts which they receive beyond salaries and pension," Justice (retd) Muslim observed while pointing out that the municipal and town committees are overstaffed. "There are instances when 700 employees are found in a town committee which doesn't even have the place to accommodate 30 staff members."
Taking notice of the complaints about displacement made by inhabitants of different localities along the Phuleli Canal in Hyderabad, Justice (retd) Muslim ordered the registration of the displaced people. The provincial government will provide a plot of 120 square yards to each registered family, the chief secretary assured.
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Justice (retd) Muslim directed the Hyderabad deputy commissioner to prepare a list of people displaced by anti-encroachment operations on the canal's banks. After verification by Hyderabad's district and sessions judge, the affected people will be given the plots. The chief secretary said that the provincial government has already prepared a policy in this regard under which the displaced people in Sukkur were given plots.
The commission's head gave two days to the health and education secretaries for submission of the work plans for supply of clean drinking water in some 4,500 schools and an unspecified number of hospitals. The health secretary will also have to inform the court about the projects conceived for the hospital waste management.
The commission directed Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) to find a way to maintain uninterrupted supply of electricity to the water filtration plants and pumping stations. Hesco's chief engineer, Abdul Haq Memon, apprised Justice (retd) Muslim that two of the six filtration plants in Jamshoro and Badin districts were electrified, while the remaining will get power connections within a week.
Justice (retd) Muslim ordered the commissioners of Sukkur and Larkana divisions to take possession of all physical assets of Northern Sindh Urban Services Corporation (NSUSC). The SC dissolved last year this Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded $140 million project meant for water supply, sewerage and solid waste management. "... its machinery, equipment and all physical assets or any other thing purchased by NSUSC, out of the ADB's funds be taken into possession by the commissioners of Sukkur and Larkana divisions."
The chief secretary submitted that in compliance with SC's order, the special initiatives department will be de-notified. All the projects currently being executed by the department will be immediately transferred to the concerned government departments. The commission gave a day to the chief secretary to place a copy of the said notification before it.