ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel has raised questions on the viability and sustainability of the Islamabad Safe City project.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Reforms headed by government lawmaker MNA Abdul Majeed Khan, which met at the Parliament House on Monday, said that it would also examine a similar deal under which ‘faulty surveillance scanners’ worth Rs1 billion were purchased from China.
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The panel said it would examine how much transparency has been ensured while negotiating these two deals.
MNA Khan said that sensitivity in states to state relations was one thing but transparency and suitability of a specific project was entirely a different thing. “We have to see how our officials deal with Chinese officials while finalising contracts,” he observed.
Earlier top government officials told the panel that the project would be completed by October this year as the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) has (tentatively)cleared the machinery and CCTV cameras on hold for import duty.
The officials said that because of litigation and other hitches in the execution of the project, the Chinese government had conveyed its concern to Pakistan.
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This time, the project was delayed for three months, as the FBR had refused to give duty exemption but only released the machinery and CCTV cameras on the guarantee of the interior ministry. During this period, work on the project was also halted.
Under the $124 million project, originally conceived by the PPP government in 2009 after a spate of terrorist attacks in the twin cities, security cameras and CCTVs will be installed across Islamabad.
The capital city will have an online security system and the security forces will also be equipped with modern weapons.
The officials told the panel that under the project around 1,950 surveillance cameras supported by 4G network would be installed in different parts of Islamabad.
According to them, the cameras would have the feature of facial recognition of suspects whose name is on the Fourth Schedule. “In case a suspect approaches a sensitive installation, the police would be alerted from the monitoring room to intercept the suspect,” a senior official in the interior ministry told The Express Tribune. “A minimum number of police personnel and checkposts would be required once the project is in place,” he said.
Chinese company, Huawei, has been authorised to provide the equipment and execute the project.
The interior ministry officials told the panel that Pakistan got a concessionary loan from Exim Bank of China for the project on a two per cent interest and the country was supposed to return the loan in 20 years.
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So far, 70 per cent amount for the project has been released, while the government has allocated Rs100 million this year.
The project remained embroiled in many controversies since its inception as the Supreme Court intervened and observed that the contract for the project was awarded in violation of Public Procurement Rules 2004. The apex court had also ordered the National Accountability to conduct an investigation into the alleged scam. The NAB later cleared the project and submitted a report to the apex court stating that no evidence of corruption or mismanagement had been found.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.