RAWALPINDI: Contractors have said that the Punjab government has not paid them their dues, which amount to Rs1.5 billion.
The Rs3 billion allocated to the Punjab government for these projects will lapse back to the Finance Ministry if not spent by June 30. Once this happens, they have to apply for the next annual budget and justify any pending payments.
Nadeem Afraz, a contractor working with the government for the last 15 years said, “Once the funds lapse, it takes at least two months before the next budget arrives. Many times the Finance Ministry makes deductions in the reallocations.” He said that the point of this deadline was to push departments to actively utilise their funds but the pressure had instead landed on contractors. The due amount of Rs1.5 billion is on works completed, so this means that the contractors have already invested this amount. If the Punjab government’s fund lapse and deductions are made in reallocations, the loss will be incurred by contractors.
“Any punishment the ministry tries to give to the Punjab government just bounces off to the contractors,” said Afraz. He added that, “Proof of this is the simple fact that so many contractors are awaiting payment and the government is in no hurry to pay them because they have nothing to loose.”
About 12000 official contractors have not been paid and their families are facing financial difficulties. Businessmen who supply construction material are suffering losses as well, and labourers have become unemployed. On the whole, projects worth Rs50 billion have come to a halt in the Rawalpindi Division. Abdul Hafeez Chaudhry, Chairman of the Government Contractors Association, when contacted, said not paying the contractors reflects badly on the government.
“Suppliers are no longer willing to provide construction material to official contractors on a credit basis,” he said, adding that if the funds lapse, the government will no longer have funds to pay any one. It will then seize to be a matter of the Punjab Government delaying payment, it will become impossible.
“On one hand, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said strict action will be taken against those contractors and officers who do not complete projects on time, while on the other hand, he is silent on the issue of contractors’ dues not being paid,” said Hafeez.
“Chief Minister Sharif said that all funds allocated for development should be utilised, but if the contractors are not paid, how will the allocated funds be used?” Hafeez added. Meanwhile, office bearers of the Government Contractors Association have announced that they will launch a protest until their demands are met, according to association members addressing a press conference on Sunday.
In the first phase of their protest, they will meet with government officials on Monday, after boycotting the tenders advertised by Punjab government’s highway department.
A protest rally will be staged, starting from the department offices on April 14 and a sitin protest will be staged at Katchery Chowk. They plan to burn effigies of the Punjab finance minister and secretary.
“We gave a 24-hour deadline to the administration but the District Accounts Officer went on leave,” they said, adding that despite the passage of five days having passed, their dues had not been paid.
They vowed to continue their protest until they were paid. Those present at the conference included Malik Kaleem Ahmed, Vice President of the Government Contractors Association, Punjab, Nadeem Iqbal, Malik Azeem, Captain (Retired) Abdul Latif, Iftikhar Hussain Malik, Ejaz Hussain Shah and Javed Iqbal Khokhar.