The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered cancellation of a project aimed at making Islamabad and Peshawar safe from terrorist attacks and directed the government to re-initiate the process.
The project, a brainchild of the Interior Minister Rehman Malik, was approved by the deposed prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2009.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, declared the project illegal and directed National Accountability Bureau Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari to initiate legal action against then prime minister and other top officials for committing irregularities in the deal.
The judgment authored by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed states that the entire transaction was carried out in a non-transparent manner and at an inflated cost.
The apex court ordered the government to re-initiate the procurement process in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 and the Public Procurement Rules (PPR), 2004 and the law.
Over Rs19 billion ($233 million) project was approved in December 2009 for establishing a command centre and network by installing CCTV cameras, explosives detectors and scanners at entry and exit points of the two cities to counter terrorist activities.
A Chinese firm, Hauwei Technologies had offered to execute the surveillance and monitoring system initially at Islamabad.
“This court is not insensitive to the fact that compulsions of state security may require exemptions but it is to safeguard the interest of the State that Rule 14(a) of PPR has been framed,” stated the judgment.
The contract is in violation of the mandatory provisions of PPR as the exemption granted under Rule 42 (c)(v) was based on extraneous and irrelevant reasons, according to the judgment.
According to the Planning Commission’s report referred to in the summary to the prime minister in 2010, the net value of the project was $72 million, while the contract was awarded for $124.7 million.
All government departments other than the interior ministry had repeatedly indicated the cost of the project was at least three times higher than the value of the equipment being supplied, read the judgment.
In 2011, the contract’s legality was challenged and the petitioner contended that a similar project was undertaken for Karachi in 2008-2009 for $8 million.
On November 11, 2011 the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved Rs13 billion ($151.2 million) Islamabad Safe City Project. On trial basis two scanners were installed in Islamabad.
However, it was discovered that the equipment were hazardous to health. A three-member bench of the apex court on a petition had earlier expressed its displeasure over the costly deal with the Chinese firm and sought complete records of the project.
The petitioner maintained that the government had signed the contract with Huawei Technologies for an extravagant security venture in Islamabad and Peshawar involving $124.7 million and $109 million, respectively.
According to the petitioner, the prices of the equipment being purchased under the agreement were three times higher than that in the open market.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.