No bidders for the Ministers Block at GOR-II

Anwer Hussain Sumra April 13, 2010

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided not to include the newly-constructed Ministers Block in the list of public assets being privatised, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The decision was taken after the poor response received from the bidders last year, according to Nazar Muhammad Chohan, the chairman of Punjab Privatisation Board (PPB).

Another official of the PPB stated that the bidders objected to the high reserve price, the location and the structure of the building. They claimed that it was not suitable to house a multinational company’s office. The building would be handed over to the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) in September this year to house provincial ministers and advisors offices, an S&GAD official told The Express Tribune.

The privatisation of the building is a part of the government’s fiscal austerity drive. The drive has been launched to generate revenue and improve the financial health of the province. A total of 54 public assets in agriculture, commercial and housing sectors are up for sale to generate around Rs17 billion funds.

Shahbaz Sharif, after becoming the chief minister in 2008, decided to privatise the ministers’ block and convert the chief minister secretariat at 8-Club Road into an Information Technology University for women. Both the structures were built at an estimated cost of Rs730 million and Rs900 million respectively, during Pervaiz Elahi’s tenure. A five-member committee was formed to look into the matter.

The committee recommended against privatisation. The report stated that the construction cost was very high and the structure was custom-made for housing ministers’ offices. It referred to the privatisation of the PM secretariat in Islamabad which could not receive an adequate bid even at the reserve price owing to the same reasons.

“The building has been constructed for a specific purpose and does not have the flexibility to be utilized for any other purpose without undertaking major civil works,” the report stated. Sharif approved the privatisation of the building contrary to the committee report. The government referred the case to the Punjab Privatisation Board (PPB).

The finance department allocated Rs1 million for the task and transferred the funds to the PPB. The PPB fixed Rs1,225 million as the reserve price of the structure after conducting an assessment in collaboration with the Board of Revenue and Communication and Works (C&W) department.

Auction notices were advertised in all national newspapers on Feb 14, 2009. The bidding, scheduled to be held on Feb 28, was postponed after governor rule was imposed throughout the province on Feb 25 last year. Sharif directed the PPB to complete the bidding process after getting reinstated as the Punjab CM. The PPB scheduled the auction on May 11 2009 but not a single bidder showed interest in the building, according to a PPB official.

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